Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Vacant properties a magnet for vandalism

21 May, 2007

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has said that tackling the scandal of almost 40,000 empty homes across the north could help eradicate the housing crisis. He also said that 'empties also create huge problems in themselves. They are a danger. They are a magnet anti-social behaviour and vandalism'.

Speaking at Stormont today Mr McCann said:

"We can talk of the serious problem of the supply of social housing; the problems with planning, of land supply, of creating an affordable sector or the housing selection scheme, the list is endless. The one issue, which in many ways escapes the attention, is the question of empties - vacant homes left lying empty often for many years. Many left empty to accumulate as much money as the owner can possibly make, before being sold on for huge profits. It is estimated that over 30% of all empties fall into this category.

"Now we need to act. Now have a local minister and a new Executive. We now need the political will to respond to this scandal - 38,000 homes lying empty while thousands are homeless and thousands are trapped on the waiting lists.

"There are 4,889 houses lying empty in the Belfast area, some have been empty for years, others are in a varied state of disrepair and others could even have tenants' moving into them right away. The minister needs to take urgent action to ensure that these dwellings are brought into the general housing stream. In a short space of time it would help overcome the under supply in the social rented sector. It could help kick start an affordable sector.

"But these empties also create huge problems in themselves. They are a danger. They are a magnet anti-social behaviour and vandalism."

He made a number of suggestions including;

• no house in public ownership should lie empty more than 3 months;
• the use of compulsory purchase orders - where derelict property and properties vacant for 12 months.

Note to Editors - In 1991 over 31,000 homes lay empty. In 1996 it was over 33,000 and in 2006 the figure stood at over 38,000. There are 4,889 houses empty in the Belfast area. South Belfast has the highest number with 2, 350. North Belfast has 1,200. There are 810 in East Belfast 810 and 520 in West Belfast. In Lisburn 1,460 dwellings are classed as empties, in Derry that figure is 1,800.

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