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Thursday, 16th May 2024

Smith raises issue of Council's 31 vacant houses in Drogheda

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A bungalow at Hand Street which has been vacant for five years or more and has become derelict in the meantime.

By Andy Spearman

There are 31 Council owned houses in Drogheda that are currently vacant and in varying states of dereliction. This is a source of great anger and annoyance among the people of Drogheda, and not just the immediate neighbours.

The number of privately owned vacant or derelict houses in the town is unknown but for the local authority to allow so many of their housing stock to lie vacant, some of them for years, in the middle of a housing crisis is difficult to comprehend or justify.

The topic was raised at Monday’s Borough District of Drogheda meeting by Cllr. Pio Smith who said there was a great desire among the people of Drogheda to see these houses, all 31 of them, as well as privately owned empty houses, put back into use.

Each of these 31 properties has their own back story, but one example is that of a bungalow at 21 Hand Street which has been vacant for five or six years since the elderly couple who lived there passed away within a year of each of each other and the Council bought it.

Nothing was done with the house for over a year in which time the once neatly kept garden turned into a jungle with ivy and briars growing over the walls and roof and spread, along with an infestation of rats, into neighbouring gardens.

Then a team of contractors arrived with mini diggers who levelled the once landscaped gardens back and front. In doing so they managed to knock down a neighbour’s garden wall before they left.

Some months later another team of workers arrived and installed new windows and doors, a state of the art heating system (see picture below) and repaired the roof of the extension at the back. For several weeks there was great activity with men and machines coming and going. Then one day all the activity stopped and everyone packed up their tools and left.

That was well over 18 months ago and nothing has happened to the house since, except that the garden has become overgrown again and the rats are back.

Meanwhile neighbours in Hand Street, including myself, have had several people asking about who owned the house and wondering if it was for sale. I had a conversation some months ago with a man who said he would love to do the place up for his family who were currently living with his mother.

At Monday’s Borough meeting Cllr Smith said “We must do whatever we can to bring all types of vacant properties back into use.”

Cllr. Paddy McQuiIllan sad that he reckoned Drogheda has more vacant houses than Dundalk and Artdee put together.

Labour Councillor Emma Cutlip said it is outrageous that, in the midst of an acute housing crisis, thousands of homes across our country sit idle, either vacant or derelict.

“Every vacant or derelict property represents a missed opportunity to provide a safe and secure home for someone in need” she said.

 “Housing is the number one issue in the country and across Louth. Time and time again, constituents express their concerns about the lack of affordable housing options in our community. Affordable homes for them and their children. Affordable places to rent or to buy.”

When Cllr. Cutlip asked what attempts were being been made to identify the owners of vacant houses she was told that the post of Vacant Homes Officer had yet to be filled.

The official also said that the level of work involved in getting vacant houses back into occupation varies enormously. “Some long-term voids take a lot more work than others before they can be re-allocated” he said, but added that all of them would be. He just didn’t say when.

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