COMPLAINTS that Cork County Council is ‘a housing agency without houses’ were voiced at a Western Committee meeting of Cork County Council.
Both Cllr Paul Hayes and Cllr Rachel McCarthy said people make such complaints to them all the time. But they both admitted they were impressed that the housing graphs seem to be ‘going in the right direction.’
Cllr McCarthy said: ‘One of the biggest issues we face is the rental market – people are on the waiting list with nowhere to go.’ And Cllr Hayes highlighted the fact that a lot of the people on the Council’s housing list would have to wait another year or two before the big housing schemes are ready.
One of the positive aspects to emerge from the quarterly report that was presented by the director of services, Maurice Manning, is that the number of vacant houses – otherwise known as voids – is 38 in West Cork, a figure that represents 2.9% of the housing stock.
However, Cllr Hayes said: ‘38 houses is a housing estate all on its own.’
Mr Manning said the larger schemes are progressing, and in the case of the proposed Cluid development in Bantry, he said the design team was appointed in January.
Cllr Joe Carroll said the announcement of ‘wonderful’ Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes for Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Macroom ‘isn’t so wonderful after all’ because there is still so much preparatory work to be done.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) agreed, saying that the preparatory work for the Part Eight planning process had only just begun and would not be ready until mid-June. The councillors were told that the reason the PPP takes so long is because the three Cork schemes are part of a bundle of eight schemes, involving more than 400 social houses.
Mr Manning said the planning process involved in a PPP bundle of this size would normally take a year to complete because it involves all aspects from the design to construction, and funding to a management plan, spanning 25 years.
The director of services confirmed that a design team for the proposed development of 56 units at Beechgrove in Clonakilty has been appointed and that planning permission will be sought in the first half of 2017.
On a more local level, Cllr Carroll complained that contractors who claim minor housing repair works would be completed in a matter of weeks, but take 12 months to do that job, should be admonished.
Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) welcomed the fact that a developer is to lodge a planning application in respect of the 30 housing units in Bantry, but said it will still take a year or more to complete, which is cold comfort for the people who have been on the waiting list for years.
Cllr Murphy urged Council officials and the Department to reassess the local authority housing purchase scheme because there were 315 refusals due to its ‘arbitrary’ income levels.
It was confirmed that there were 162 expressions of interest in the tenant purchase scheme in the Western Division but 93 of these were not eligible because of an inability to meet the income criteria. However, 56 applications have been lodged and 19 offers have been made.
Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) welcomed the fact that 49 houses are to be built in Kilnagleary in Carrigaline, but said it was ‘a huge design flaw’ not to install bathrooms at ground floor level.
He said it would seriously inconvenience families that have children with disabilities, but he welcomed the announcement that the next phase of the development would have such facilities.
Cllr Lombard also recommended a move away from block developments of 50 houses, or more, similar to those built in the 70s and 80s, saying: ‘They don’t work.’
Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) questioned the Council officials about the housing purchase scheme, saying she found it hard to see how it would be cost-effective.
But Mr Manning said tenants have an entitlement to purchase their houses. And he added: ‘The reality is that the houses would not come back into circulation anyway because they are long-term residents.’