I understand that it is not the case that there are 91 existing social homes that are vacant and in need of funding to allow them to be re-let by Louth County Council. In fact, the majority of the 91 properties referred to have been acquired by Louth County Council under the Buy & Renew Scheme and are being upgraded so they can be let for the first time as new social housing. The costs related to both the acquisition of vacant private properties and their remediation as new social homes under the Buy & Renew Scheme, are fully funded by my Department.
With regard to vacancies and the re-letting of existing social homes, responsibility for the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock lies with each individual local authority, under Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. However, my Department recognises the importance of bringing vacant stock back to use as quickly as possible at a time of significant housing need. Through focused measures such as the voids programme, Exchequer funding is provided to local authorities to remediate their vacant housing stock over and above the Council's own investment.
I understand that a minority of the 91 properties referred to are existing social homes that have become vacant. These have not been the subject of a funding application to my Department and I understand that Louth County Council was using its own resources to repair and re-let such properties as part of the normal management of their social housing stock but do not have a sufficient funding provision to cover this work. I hope that the Council will make provision in its 2019 Budget for an increased level of funding for the maintenance of the Council's housing stock next year.
My Department is now in dialogue with Louth County Council regarding the existing vacant social homes and it is open to the Council to seek funding support, if required, for refurbishment works to be carried out before the homes are re-let. I am also keen to see the properties acquired by Louth County Council under the Buy & Renew Scheme refurbished and made available as new social housing as soon as possible and funding is available from my Department for this purpose.