SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey said he was “shocked” to discover that there are almost 800 empty residential properties in the Derry City Council area.
Now the party’s chief whip has called on Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to look at ways of utilising the empty homes to address a local housing crisis.
Mr Ramsey said: “I asked the Minister of Finance how many properties have been listed as empty since October 2011, and I was shocked to be informed that 754 homes are empty in the Derry City Council area. I
“In total throughout the North, there are 22,392 residential properties lying empty.
“Every effort should be being made by the Executive to seek to utilise these properties for social housing.
“While not advocating forced purchases, the Executive should be investigating how they can enter into discussions with landlords to seek the properties to be brought back into use immediately based on an affordable and fair agreement for prospective tenants who may be waiting on the Housing Executive lists for a long period of time.
“We need to be ensuring that empty properties are up to health and safety standards so residents in adjoining properties are not adversely affected by them.
“In light of this, I will be asking Derry City Council to initiate a process of checking empty properties for health and safety compliance which may not only address any issues, but in bringing empty properties up to standard, may actually increase their ability to attract occupants.”