BY LOUISE CONVERY
NEARLY three thousand properties are lying vacant across Mid Ulster, it has been revealed.
The figures were released by the Department of Finance after Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone requested the figures for Northern Ireland. It was revealed that the Cookstown council area there are 1,400 lying dormant and 1,200 in Magherafelt.
A breakdown provided by the department showed that as of 8 January showed that nearly 70 per cent of these properties were unoccupied domestic properties owned by ratepayers.
Nearly 60,000 properties were listed as vacant in Northern Ireland as of 11 December, despite an increasing demand for adequate housing here.
Commenting on the figures, Mr McGlone said: “No one likes to see buildings vacant whether they are in a housing estate, a reflection of the building trade, as a result of a house reposession, or just lying vacant, it gives an impression of a declining community.
“The Executive needs to look at how we can get these properties back into use. In the Cookstown district the number of people urgently in need of a house is increasing and the Housing Executive, Housing Association and Department for Social Development should really start to look at the number of vacant properties that there are and how they can be brought back into use.
“This could be encouragement through small grants and some sort of private finance, so they could be given to families and those who have no home.”
Local people have raised concerns with Mr McGlone about the rate on empty domestic properties, which was introduced in October.
“Some people have these properties, and frankly they don’t have the money to pay the rates. There isn’t much of a market to sell, so people are stuck with these rates,” he said.
“At the end of the day the Executive should look at this situation and see how they can get these properties back into use. This would be a positive move to improve the housing stock in Northern Ireland and to give people the most important thing, a roof over their head.”