The HSE has a portfolio of 214 vacant properties, but says the 47 buildings it currently has for sale are worth just €9.8m.
In a long-awaited update for the Public Accounts Committee, the HSE said 74, or just over a third of its vacant properties, were in the process of being disposed of.
However, only 47 of those have a specific value attached, with some of those valuations dating from more than a decade ago.
By far the highest valued of those properties is St Finan’s Hospital in Killarney, formerly an asylum, which shut its doors in September 2012, On a 10,600sq m site, it has a price tag of €2.6m.
Properties owned by non-profit State agencies must first be offered to the Land Development Agency, the State authority with responsibility for developing housing on public land, before they can be sold on the open market.
The five next highest priced properties have all been valued within the last two years — Trudder House in Wicklow at €1.2m; 99 Patrick Street in Dublin at €850,000; Dingle Community Hospital at €550,000; Delgany Health Centre, also in Wicklow, at €385,000; and Hill House in Mayo at €380,000.
The lowest-valued property in the portfolio, Gneeveguilla in Kerry at €5,000, was last valued in April 2011.
The HSE said the properties for sale were “surplus to the HSE’s requirement” and are in the “various stages of disposal”. Just 13 of them are in a position where a sale has been agreed.
Just three buildings, at St Joseph’s Hospital in Limerick, are in the process of being transferred to the LDA.
The various buildings are scattered across the country, with at least one situated in each of the 26 southern counties. Some 19 of them are in Cork — including the enormous former sanatorium Heatherside Hospital in Streamhill, for sale for €350,000 on the private market, and four units at St Stephen’s hospital in Glanmire, which have been vacant for more than 30 years.
Dublin has by far the highest proportion of properties on the list, at 57
While there are just 214 properties on the list produced by the HSE, the organisation’s chief financial officer Stephen Mulvany last month told the PAC there were roughly 400 such vacant buildings of “all different shapes and sizes”.
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the size of the HSE’s idle property portfolio was proof that Ireland needs an “active land management agency”, and the fact the LDA has no power to compulsorily purchase disused properties means State bodies have no reason to reduce their holdings.
He said other State bodies, such as Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, and Bord na Mona, also have large vacant property holdings, and this would remain the case until those bodies were given “the impetus” to dispose of those buildings.
“Otherwise these properties will just sit on their balance sheets as assets because they have no incentive to take this stuff off,” he said.
Cian O’Callaghan, Mr Ó Broin’s opposite number in the Social Democrats, said it was “a no brainer” to bring those buildings back into use given the ongoing housing crisis, but added in his estimation Government and State agencies “don’t seem that bothered” about doing so.
“There are clear benefits to bringing them back into use, not just for housing, but in terms of bringing areas back to life,” Mr O’Callaghan said.