Longford County Council is losing out on annual revenue of as much as €250,000 owing to boarded-up houses around the town and county. However, to get them back to a standard fit for rent, it could cost the council millions, based on a figure given by their finance department.
At present, there are 75 council houses across the county not in use, and deemed not fit for rent.
“One of the main funding streams is our houses, and I’d asked that that be looked at,” said Cllr Nolan, who spoke about the 75 houses that are currently boarded up.
Calculated at €55 per week, she said that the council is losing €5,000 per week, with a net amount of €250,000 annually. Cllr Nolan said that it should be kept as a priority on the council agenda and try to get the house back onto council stock.
“It’s a lot of revenue to the council and there’s money going elsewhere, to private rentals, with rent allowance,” said Cllr Nolan.
Cllr Mae Sexton added, “It’s just not acceptable, given that we do have money elsewhere.”
Cllr Barney Steele said the council should seek special grant aid from the department to refurbish the houses and bring them up to rental standard.
Cllr Larry Bannon said a lot of rural houses are going damp and into bad repair and asked that the council seek a grant for insulation, possibly through an SEI grant. Cllr Mark Casey also suggested introducing low usage water toilet systems to the council houses, particularly with water charges coming in.
Barry Lynch, director of finance, said the boarded up houses is a capital funding issue.
“They have to be brought up to standard and that can cost quite a bit of money, depending on the condition of the house. On average, it seems to cost €20,000 when we’re renovating and getting back into circulation.
“The only way that can be done is by approval from the department and I will be doing that early in January. It’s certainly going to be a top priority in 2013 for the directorate,” Mr Lynch said, agreeing with the councillors’ argument that more houses rented would increase their maintenance fund.
In relation to energy renewal, Mr Lynch said he would be in contact with the Department of Energy Renewal and Natural Resources to seek funding.
Cllr Frank Kilbride asked that the council housing officials check with tenants’ previous landlords to assess their suitability for rental, referring to the damage caused by tenants.
A total of €10,000 was added back to the housing maintenance allowance after an appeal by numerous councillors, including Paul Connell, who first proposed an increase in the budget.
“The housing maintenance has gone down considerably. In 2012 we were only doing emergency maintenance so I would be concerned by what it has gone down by (€65,000 reduction),” said Cllr Paul Connell, who asked the executive to have a look reallocating some funding.
Mr Lynch explained that in maintaining the €270,000 for disabled and older people housing, it led to the €65,000 reduction in the maintenance and repair funds (down to €610,000 9.6% drop).