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Vacant Dublin council houses will remain ‘boarded up’ due to funding cuts, official says

Senior city council official says Department of Housing funding for refurbishing empty properties ‘constantly coming down’

Council homes will be left derelict or boarded up in Dublin city next year unless the Department of Housing reverses funding cuts for refurbishment, a senior Dublin City Council official has said.

Robert Buckle, senior engineer with the council’s housing section, told councillors on Wednesday that Government funding for repairing and refurbishing empty properties was “constantly coming down” making it increasingly difficult to bring empty homes back into use.

The council’s 2024 budget, which will be presented to councillors next week, includes €10 million for “voids” – houses or flats which have been vacated by tenants but are not in a fit condition to be relet, a drop of €15 million on 2023’s funding.

“It is looking like we are going to spend about €25 million this year. My budget, quite worryingly, for 2024 currently is at €10 million. I know we don’t want to see houses boarded up in 2024... but if the budget is not increased in 2024, that is where we are heading.”


The council had restored 843 homes this year, an increase of 22 per cent on 2022, Mr Buckle said, and 642 units “became void” to date in 2023. There are about 500 council homes in Dublin city waiting to be refurbished, a figure which fluctuates as homes are vacated or refurbishment work completed.

Capacity issues in the construction sector and rising material costs, which had “exponentially gone up in the past 12-18 months”, mean refurbishment work was becoming increasingly more expensive while, at the same time, changes in the Department of Housing funding system meant the council had less money to do the work, Mr Buckle said.

“Voids in 2023 are costing us on average about €45,000. Before 2023 it was an average cost of €32,000 and this is to do with materials and labour costs,” he said.

“The department funding has changed,” he said. “Before 2023 we used to get roughly about 50 per cent funding per void. At the moment it’s at €11,500 per void, which is a huge cost back on the council,” he said. “There is a decrease on the voids budget at the moment, [it is] constantly coming down, and that’s making things very tight budget wise.”

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said €31 million was included nationally in Budget 2024 for “tackling voids and vacancy” and Dublin City Council had received about €20 million between 2020 and 2022 “to restore 1,338 voids”.

“There is no cap on remediation amounts; €11,000 is an average figure. This allows for quick turnarounds rather than longer refurbishments and extended vacancy periods,” he said.

“If a local authority chooses to do works over and above those which are necessary to comply with the rental standards it can impact re-let times and result in additional costs which the local authority should absorb.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times