TWENTY-FOUR hours before the launch of Government’s Housing Action Plan, the housing authority in West Cork proudly reported that it had exceeded its 2015 target by 20 per cent.
Ms Mary Ryan – the former Director of Housing with Cork County Council and the new Director of Services – confirmed that there are already new efficiencies in the system, particularly in relation to the Housing Assistance Payment scheme (HAP) and Choice Based Letting.
At a meeting of the Council’s Western Committee in Clonakilty on Monday, she confirmed that the council’s housing department has written to 220,000 people who are looking to be housed advising them of changes and improvements to the scheme and asking each and every one of them to write back and re-confirm their housing needs and requirements.
Ms Ryan said the Council had made ‘huge strides’ this year in relation to energy efficiency and the retrofitting of local authority houses at a cost of €1.9m; and she confirmed that the Council’s current housing allocation for 2016 is €4.1m.
The targets for delivery under the Social Housing Strategy – which includes everything from local authority builds and acquisitions to capital assistance schemes (CAS), the re-letting vacant houses, social leasing and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) – was 1,217 units.
The Director of Services also confirmed that local authority projects – such as the provision of 56 units at Beechgrove in Clonakilty – is currently out to tender for the purposes of appointing a design team.
‘It is a lengthy process,’ she said in reference to the complexities involved in the Council’s construction programme, but she added: ‘when it will be done it will be a fine scheme.’
In addition to the Council’s acquisition of eleven houses, Ms Ryan confirmed that the Council currently has offers on a further eight units across the division, but the overall target is 100 acquisitions for the entire County.
The Director confirmed that a feasibility study for a Cluid project in Bantry – one that will involve the provision of 16 units – has been submitted to the Department of Environment.
‘The indications are that the Department is looking favourably at that development, but there is still a long process to go through,’ she advised the members of the Western Committee.
Commenting on a number of Capital Assistance Scheme, Ms Ryan made the point that voluntary bodies seeking funding will need to have their paperwork completed and the sale finalised by November in order to secure funding under this year’s allocation.
On the subject of returning vacant properties to productive use, Ms Ryan pointed out that the number of vacant houses in the West Cork division is 57 – just 3.29% of the total housing stock.
The figures for the County show that there were 228 vacant houses on the Council’s books as of the end of May, but 65 of these are currently under repair.
Ms Ryan made the point that the number of properties surrendered between June 2015 and the end of May was 146.
She said the vacancy arose for a number of reasons some of which included the death of a tenant, their decision to move abroad, and other tenants transferring to another area.
The Director said the figures show ‘there is always movement in the system’ and that there will always be casual vacancies and that the figures could not be read as a lack of action on the part of the local authority.
Meanwhile, in brief, the Council is currently considering 288 expressions of interest under the tenant purchase scheme.
The Council has also accommodated 25 members of the travelling community, as well as eight homeless people, under the housing assistance payment.