Scores of 'void' council homes in Laois back in use after big spend

Leinster Express Reporter

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More than 70 empty council houses in Laois have been refurbished and relet to people to people in search of a home on Laois County Council's waiting list. 

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, thanked Laois County Council for their work in refurbishing and re-letting 71 homes in the county.

He said the work was done under the Voids Stimulus Programme which has exceeded targets with 2,565 social homes refurbished and brought back into use across the country.

Laois had a better record than neighbouring Carlow with 33 homes restored and also did better than Kilkenny where 60 house were put back into uses. It relet just 19 fewer houses thank Kildare where 91 homes were refurbished.

Overall in 2020, €56.4m was spent to bring a total of 3,607 vacant homes back into productive use within the social housing stock. A statement from the Department of Housing said this represents the highest ever yearly spend and the highest number of homes to be refurbished under the voids programme.

Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “The shutdown in construction activity in the first half of last year has had a big impact on our delivery of new-build social housing. The Government decided as part of the July Stimulus to make up for lost ground by allocating €40m for the refurbishment of social housing stock which was otherwise vacant. 

“I asked Local Authorities to ensure that all homes were refurbished and at the very least allocated by the end of the year. Laois County Council responded with great enthusiasm and their speedy uptake in the scheme is to be highly commended.

“Over the course of the year 3,607 vacant social homes have been brought back into use, 2,565 of those in just six months. They have been refurbished and allocated to those on the social housing list and those experiencing homelessness.

“There was also an added economic benefit with further employment generated for local Laois builders, carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians and so on,” he concluded.

As part of the Stimulus Programme announced in July 2020 €40 million went to the refurbishment of 2,500 vacant social homes. By the end of 2020 1,925 were occupied with a further 640 tenancies accepted. A total of 297 of the refurbished homes were reserved for tenancies for homeless households at a cost of €5.2m.