There are 450 derelict properties within a 2-kilometre radius of Cork city centre according to research conducted by Cork-based urban design and sustainability consultants, Frank O’Connor, and Jude Sherry.
The independent researchers also say that Cork City Council’s derelict sites register vastly underestimates the scale of the problem as it currently only has 100 properties tagged on its system.
The issue was raised in the Dáil this morning with the Fine Gael Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke.
The Minister was also asked to explain what supports were in place to assist local authorities in the collection of derelict site levies in view of the fact that less than 3% of possible levies was collected in 2020.
This means that although there was potential to collect €12.5 million in levies last year, Local Authorities only collected €378,763.
According to information supplied by Minister of State Burke, local authorities are given the power to apply the levy as a means of urging owners or occupiers of the properties to take appropriate measures to bring derelict sites back into residential or commercial use.
It also emerged during the course of the Dáil debate that approximately 21 local authorities did not collect a single euro in derelict levies in 2020.
Minister Burke went on to say that while this was an issue that needed to be addressed directly to local authorities, it should be noted that there is a €50,000 per annum available from the Department towards a salary for a vacant homes officer.
Presently however only three local authorities employ a vacant homes officer on a full-time basis.
A major contributory factor to the high rates of derelict properties throughout the state was identified by the Labour Party TD for Cork East, Seán Sherlock, during the First Stage debate on his Private Members Derelict Sites (Amendment) Bill 2021 earlier this year:
“The fact is that where a site is in the ownership of an insolvent company and the local authority intervenes to make it safe, the taxpayer loses. The taxpayer has no mechanism to recoup that funding through the local authority making the site safe.”
Similar concerns around the need to tackle the liability of local authorities as well as the need to escalate the renovation of derelict residential properties into homes have been repeatedly identified by the Rural Independent Group.
The leader of the Rural Group, Mattie McGrath TD has long campaigned on the need for extensive renovation grants to be made available to restore properties in rural areas in order to increase the supply of housing for individuals and families and to rejuvenate town centres as places where people can live, which was once common practice.