1,500 empty houses now lying vacant in Derry

Fifteen hundred privately owned homes are lying vacant in Derry, it’s been revealed.

The revelation was made through an answer to an Assembly Question posed by SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan to Social Development Minister Alex Attwood.

Following the report that 1,500 private homes are lying empty in the greater Derry area, Mr Durkan - the SDLP’s Social Development spokesperson - urged Minister Attwood to bring forward and implement an Empty Homes Strategy to address the chronic lack of social housing available to those most in need. Mr Durkan said that government needs to look at alternative methods of finding ways to house the most vulnerable including introducing a programme to purchase some of these vacant properties for social housing.

Under strain

The Foyle MLA said: “While I recognise that all areas of government are under strain at present, it is vital that social housing is made a priority by the Executive and that they introduce practical measures to ease housing waiting lists including purchasing vacant properties. With 1500 vacant privately owned residential properties in the Derry area alone, property prices at an all-time low and the supply of social housing extremely limited, it makes sense for these empty properties to be considered for purchase for social housing. This would go a long way to helping the 3000 families currently going nowhere on the housing list, 1800 of which are experiencing severe housing stress.” He added that his office had been inundated with requests from constituents made homeless because private landlords had their properties repossessed. “This is a totally unacceptable set-up when so many properties are lying vacant and so many people are in housing need.”

Concerns

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Councillor Tony Hassan, whilst welcoming the announcement from the Social Development Minister Alex Attwood that he is to fast track planning applications for a number of developments in and around the city centre in advance of the City Of Culture year 2013, has expressed concerns that the plans for many other projects in Derry which include housing are gathering dust.

“Let us not beat about the bush, there have been planning applications in the system going back nearly a decade which still have not been approved.”