Evie says her case proves the Council needs more focus on accessible homes

October 20th, 2021 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

Evie Nevin and her children, Alex and Olivia, at their home in Clonakilty. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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A CLONAKILTY woman is appealing for help to secure ground floor housing for her family before one of them suffers a serious injury.

Evie Nevin, a former election candidate, and her son Alex (11) and daughter Olivia (6), have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects every part of their bodies, but mostly causes chronic pain and dislocations.

Evie, her husband, who is also her carer, and children, have been living in a two-storey terraced house in Clonakilty since 2010.

In 2017, after she travelled to the UK for treatment for her condition where doctors strongly recommended she live in ground floor accommodation for her safety, she put in a request to Cork County Council for a transfer. ‘That request was approved in 2018 but nothing has happened since,’ she said.

Evie says she sleeps on the couch in her TV room most nights. ‘I get wobbly when I’m tired and would be afraid of falling. But also the stairs causes my heart to elevate and then I can’t sleep when by body gets stressed.

‘I’m also really afraid that the kids will fall down the stairs. At this stage my nerves are shot and I think it’s only a matter of time before one of them is involved in a serious fall. I want to pre-empt that by moving.’

Olivia started to experience dislocating before she was one, and Evie says the joint pain suffered by Alex is getting more consistent and he also has mild scoliosis.

As the house they’re currently in is rented, adapting it to suit their needs isn’t an option. ‘At the moment, as requested, we’re notifying the County Council when we see a bungalow going on the market for sale in the area, but we’ve been told that they can’t outbid a first time buyer, which I understand.

‘While we will be extremely grateful for a safe home to call our own, I am troubled at the cost. You would pay at least double to buy a bungalow, rather than building one.

‘What’s frustrating is the lack of joined-up thinking that took place before the current stock of social housing came on line.

‘I brought these issues up with our councillors years ago. I, and many other people with disabilities, warned them about the chronic lack of housing for people with disabilities. We advised that before the social housing builds go ahead that plans should be made to increase the stock of accessible housing.’

Of the accessible homes that are being developed, she said, they usually only have one downstairs bedroom, and don’t take into account that more than one family member can have a disability.

She praised Ind Cllr Paul Hayes for working on her behalf, but she feels she’s ‘screaming into a void.’

She added: ‘The Housing for All policy is full of ideas but no real commitment on housing for people with disabilities. We are 14% of the population, we matter too.’

Cork South West FF TD Christopher O’Sullivan said a number of constituents have contacted his office, who are in private rented accommodation and on the social housing list, but can’t be allocated a social house, as the Council do not have sufficient accessible housing.

‘I was astonished to learn, that of the 50 plus houses built at Beechgrove in Clonakilty, only one was fitted with an accessible toilet.

‘I have been urging the local authority to ensure that a much greater percentage of future social housing bills are fully accessible to wheelchair users in particular. I have also requested that the Minister for Local Government, Darragh O’Brien, provide emergency funding to local authorities so they can acquire single storey properties and adapt them for wheelchair accessibility for the people that need them.’


Council is spending over €50m social housing this year


CORK County Council recently said that it had already booked €50m for social housing in 2021.

Maurice Manning, the director of housing, told members of the Western Division that a total of €53.7m was claimed for various capital expenditure schemes.

He said the delivery figure for 2021 is 706 units, and that the Council’s own construction programme accounts for six units currently at preliminary stage, 73 units at design stage, 74 dwellings at tender stage, while there are 256 units currently under construction in the county.

According to recent CSO figures, the south west had the highest number of single dwelling completions, with 17% of the national figure in the second quarter of 2021.

Out of all of the 166 local electoral areas, West Cork was the only area outside of Dublin with more than 100 completions.

The CSO statistics include all public and private housing estates, as well as individual, private homes constructed in urban and rural areas, and they correlate with the reopening of the construction sector in April.

Mr Manning said that a lot of the building stems from Cork County Council initiatives and, in the third-quarter of 2021, tenants for the first 20 – out of 52 – new houses at The Miles in Clonakilty have taken up residence and that the final 32 houses in the public private partnership (PPP) scheme would be completed shortly.

He said Skibbereen is in a similar situation in that tenants for the first 35 – out of the 50 houses being built under the same PPP scheme – moved in recently.

In addition to these 102 houses, the director said another 57 houses are being built by the Council at Beechgrove in Clonakilty.

Six more houses at Townshend Street in Skibbereen will be completed before the year is out, while 18 new houses at Kearney’s Field in Dunmanway are under construction and will be completed early in 2022. Meanwhile, 14 houses are being constructed at Copper Point in Schull.

In relation to an old Baltimore hotel site, Mr Manning said a 12-unit turnkey development is underway and that Caherdaniel in Bantry had been recently approved as a 34-unit turnkey development where construction is due to start shortly.

He said the first phase of the 33-unit Abbeyfort development in Kinsale is complete and that the second 17-house phase has commenced.

Mr Manning also confirmed that the construction of a 12-house scheme in Ballydehob will commence in 2022 and be completed in 2023.

Meanwhile, in Skibbereen, four new dwellings for the Skibbereen Geriatric Society are being built, while the Peter McVerry Trust is to purchase 10 apartments at the former Vickery’s Inn to provide new social housing units for the people of Bantry.

Also included in Mr Manning’s report was the announcement that 24 sales, under the tenant purchase scheme, have been completed in West Cork.

Cllr Joe Carroll (Ind) welcomed the report. ‘This is a great record for the Council’s housing department,’ he said. ‘The quality of housing is the best we have seen of any local authority housing. It is top class.’

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