Squatters are starting to move into some of Leitrim’s empty housing stock, prompting renewed calls for a more speedy resolution to the oversupply of housing in the county.
With CSO figures indicating that over a third of homes in the county are unoccupied and a Government survey last year showing that a substantial number of estates in Co Leitrim are only partially occupied, or incomplete, the situation facing the county has reached a crisis point according to one local councillor.
Cllr John McCartin lives in the village of Newtowngore where only 13 out of 40 homes are actually occupied. Numbers of residents in the village have changed little since before the Celtic Tiger building boom and although some of the estates are in good condition there are homes at various stages of completion, something Cllr McCartin says poses a massive health and safety risk.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, Cllr McCartin said there was evidence that squatters had moved into homes in the village with dirty mattresses, litter and human excrement left in and near incomplete and unoccupied estates.
“I have seen evidence of squatting myself and I have huge concerns about how people are getting access to these buildings and potentially, the health and safety issues that arise because people are living in building sites,” he said.
The Fine Gael councillor said there was also evidence that vermin were also making themselves at home in the unsecured buildings.
“I’m sure this is something that is happening in other unfinished, unoccupied estates around the county which aren’t properly secured. I have argued on a number of occasions that these houses pose a huge health and safety risk to our communities,” he pointed out.
“The average life span of an unoccupied house with no services is three to seven years and we have already seen a huge deterioration in the condition of unfinished housing stock throughout the county. We have to face the reality that viable houses must be used and those that aren’t must be immediately knocked,” he said.