AN online system of offering and allocating local authority houses is working well in West Cork. Maurice Manning, Cork County Council’s director of services for housing, confirmed to members of the Western Committee that the system, Choice Based Letting, has ‘virtually eliminated refusals.’
Mr Manning said the scheme, which allows prospective tenants view the houses and make their application for houses online, has also allowed the Council to identify where in West Cork there is the greatest need.
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) agreed with his assessment saying: ‘The figures do seem to be stacking up and it is certainly speeding up the allocation of houses.’
But not all of the councillors were happy. Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) and Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said there are people on the Council’s waiting list who are not ‘tech-savvy’ and it is these people who are losing out under the Choice Based Letting scheme.
There was some dissatisfaction, too, when the councillors discussed the Council’s tenant purchase scheme.
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) pointed out that there had only been five sales to date since the introduction of the scheme and she maintained: ‘The criteria are too strict.’
Mr Manning acknowledged that the scheme had not resulted in a large number of sales. He pointed out that social welfare payments and lump sums could not be factored into the final calculations, but he said the biggest drawback of all is ‘a lack of secure income.’
From the Council’s point of view, Mr Manning said: ‘It is a frustrating scheme to be administering.’ But he said there is a review taking place and that the Council would give ‘full consideration’ to the outcome of that review.
Cllr Collins (Ind) said he knew of one man who is willing to pay for a Council house that his elderly parents are living in, but the housing agency won’t accept his money.
According to the Bantry-based councillor, the man’s parents cannot afford to buy the house themselves but their son has ‘done well for himself’ and would like to step in and provide them with this security in their old age.
Cllr Kevin Murphy had complaints too. He said the Council’s housing stock in Kinsale had been almost completely sold off and that a lot of these houses were then privately sold for ‘massive profits.’
Sinn Féin’s Rachel McCarthy also took issue with the Council’s Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) saying that at 21%, it is very high in West Cork.
Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said she was concerned that some of the houses in the HAP scheme are sub-standard and she asked if the overall scheme is being inspected as regularly as it should.
Mr Manning told her that the inspections have been increasing ‘year on year’ and that the Council is in the process of putting additional resources into it. Members heard there are 28 out of 1,767 homes vacant in West Cork.