Number of vacant houses is ‘shocking’

Cllr O’Meara: ‘We have to get real on incentives because they are just not enough.’

Grants of up to €50,000 announced by the Government to provide the opportunity for first time buyers to purchase rundown houses in towns and villages were an insult, Cllr Michael O’ Meara stated at the July meeting of the Nenagh Municipal District authority.

He felt first time buyers willing to take on such a challenge should be given grants of at least €130,000. “We have to get real on incentives because they are just not enough,” he said.

Cllr Joe Hannigan said the volume of unoccupied houses in towns and villages hit home with him while he and his team were canvassing door-to-door during the last general election. So many properties remain unoccupied, he said.

Cllr Hannigan felt the €50,000 grant being offered to first time buyers was a good initiative. When coupled with energy saving grants on offer, a lot of work could be done on properties that were lying idle for years. He urged intending first time buyers to research the incentives now being offered by the State.

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Cllr Seamus Morris said the biggest problem faced by developers who wanted to restore or improve derelict properties in towns and villages was establishing who the owners were. He said he had been talking to one particular local developer who wanted to “jump in” and restore a number of rundown houses in the center of Nenagh. However, his way had been blocked because he could not even establish who owned the long abandoned houses.

“It’s shocking to see the amount of empty properties in towns and villages,” said Cllr Morris.

He said one big obstacle developers were facing when tackling derelict properties was the Building Energy Ratings now required under law. “The BER ratings are absolute lunacy,” he said, adding that the energy saving requirement could not be achieved in many old town and village properties.

District Cathaoirleach, Cllr Hughie McGrath, said there were potential developers who were encountering many stumbling blocks in restoring old houses. He had spoken to a qualified carpenter who wanted to restore an old property in Nenagh. He could not draw down State funding because one of the stipulations was that one had to be a registered builder to carry out such works.

Cllr McGrath said particular difficulties had been encountered by people who wanted to restore living spaces above shops in Nenagh.

“Once you get down to the practicalities of doing it you are facing large sums of money and people just do not have the €100,000 they need to tackle the work.”

Cllr McGrath said Nenagh was fortunate to have some top class developers who had recently restored derelict properties in Summerhill and Sarsfield Street.

Councilors agreed to make representations to the special policy committee within the county council dealing with housing matters in the hope of achieving some progress on the matters raised.

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