BY JACKIE KEOGH
RISING rents will inevitably lead to more people seeking housing support from Cork County Council, according to Sinn Féin Cllr Rachel McCarthy.
Speaking at a housing meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council, Cllr McCarthy pointed out that 21% of people on the Council’s social housing list in West Cork are in receipt of the housing assistance payment, otherwise known as HAP, while the corresponding number for the Bandon and Kinsale Municipal District is 9.9%.
The Sinn Féin councillor said the figures are worrying because of the rising cost of rents. And she complained that people in Cork county, as opposed to Cork city, have a higher threshold in terms of income before they can go on the Council’s housing list.
Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) agreed saying: ‘The HAP figures are a clear indication that people are leaning heavily on rentals in the private sector – a sector that cannot be depended upon.’
Cllr Coughlan called for the Council’s proposed public information briefings to be rolled out as soon as possible and she asked Council officials to ‘streamline the message’ so people, particularly landlords, could clearly understand the benefits of the housing assistance payment.
During the discussion about housing, Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) complained that married couples may as well not be registered on the Council’s housing list because they can only apply for a one-bedroomed house and the Council does not have one-bedroomed houses.
‘It means, in effect, that they are not on the housing list,’ said Cllr Carroll in reference to the 120 couples in need of accommodation.
But there was good news in the Council’s quarterly housing report. Maurice Manning, the Council’s director of services for housing, pointed out that the sum of €785,316 has been paid in grants in the Western Division for improvement works in houses owned by older people or people with disabilities.
Commenting on the Council’s construction programme, Mr Manning said there are six houses planned for Skibbereen and 20 planned for Kearney’s Field in Dunmanway – both of which are at a preliminary stage.
Other projects include the building of 15 houses in Courtmacsherry, two at Droum in Castletownbere, one in Bantry, and 56 at Beechgrove in Clonakilty – all of which are at the design stage.
There are, however, 49 houses at Kilnagleary in Carrigaline at tender stage and Mr Manning said: ‘construction will be starting shortly.’
Throughout the County there are 345 turnkey properties being developed. Mr Manning said there has been departmental approval for 11 houses in Bandon; 30 in Meleenacoola in Bantry; 20 in the town centre of Dunmanway; and seven in Rosscarbery.
The Council has also acquired 19 houses in the Western Division including nine in Bandon; three in Courtmacsherry; two in Castletownbere; two in Bantry; and one in Bere Island, Kilbrittain and Dunmanway.
In addition, the sum of €3m will be spent on a combination of phase one and phase two energy efficiency works in 2017 across the country – subject to departmental approval.
An estimated 113 of these energy improvement projects will be carried out in West Cork at a cost of around €500,000.
And, as part of a planned maintenance programme, front and back door replacement works, as well as window replacement and soffit and fascia replacement works will be carried out at a number of homes throughout the Western Division.
Finally, Mr Manning confirmed that there have been 16 applications in the Western Division under a repair and leasing scheme that allows €40,000 for repairs to properties that have been vacant for at least 12 months and are located in an area where a demand for social housing exists.