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VACANT Council owned properties in Whitegate are set to be occupied before Christmas.

Two vacant properties at Lakyle Park in Whitegate were added to Clare County Council’s energy retrofit scheme and at a minimum are expected to reach a B2 BER energy level. Their inclusion in the scheme allowed for the provision of an air to water heating system.

Tony Neville, a senior executive engineer in the Council’s housing department detailed that the completion dates for the two properties was pushed back from October to the end of November. He expected they would be allocated shortly after their completion.

An update on when the properties would be made available for letting was sought by Cllr Pat Burke at the most recent sitting of the Killaloe Municipal District. He referenced the nationwide “housing crisis” as a reason for appealing for an update. “People are struggling to rent in the private sector, the process is so slow. One of these houses is vacant for twelve months, to leave a house vacant for twelve months in a housing crisis drove me to put down the motion. It is twelve months since one of these houses became available”.

He acknowledged the pressure in the building sector presently with a “shortage” of materials and workers. “People are desperate to get their hands on a local authority house,” the Whitegate representative commented as he voiced frustration that the houses were left “lying idle”.

Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe MD, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) felt it was “welcome news that the houses will be ready by the end of November and will be occupied by Christmas”. He outlined that contractors were under a lot of pressure to source materials in the current climate.

Director of Service, Anne Haugh explained of this year’s Council Budget that vacant stock “is up there in red lights and will continue to be in future budgets”. Returning vacant stock to the market is heavily reliant on funding, she stressed. “Some houses can be turned out quickly but in a large amount of cases, significant works have to be done. When houses are vacant, we look at all aspects of upgrades that can be done at the time. There is a funding issue. We try to seek alternatives from other funding sources, the energy retrofit programme is another resource”.

Issues other than funding are delaying progress, Cllr Burke flagged. “If you had all in the money in the world where can you turn around the projects quicker if there are no workers. Are they going to fall out of the sky. The shortage of young fellas and ladies going into trades and apprenticeships is a very serious issue going forward. It needs to happen quicker. The shortage of young people going into apprenticeships and trades is a concern”.

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