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Give locals priority in housing allocation, say councillors

March 19th, 2024 3:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Give locals priority in housing allocation, say councillors Image
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said the service is ‘no longeravailable’ in Skibbereen. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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COUNCILLORS in West Cork have raised questions about the allocation of houses to non-locals under the local authority’s Choice Based Letting (CBL) scheme.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Joe Carroll raised the issue at a meeting of the Western Division saying he was not talking about immigration, but merely wanted to know how people living in the further reaches of the county could qualify for Council houses in West Cork.

As for immigrants, he said councillors and Council officials will have to face the fact that a lot of these people ‘will end up on the housing list’.

Cllr Carroll asked the director of services Michael Manning and the Council executive to consider changing the CBL scheme and to give added weight to local applicants.

‘When a person is applying for planning permission they must show they have local connections, so the same should apply to CBL,’ he said.

Cllr Carroll complained after recent allocations that left some local people, with two or three children, without a Council house while people from other areas were allocated new houses.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said he believes the CBL system should be changed so added ‘support’ is given to applicants from the locality.

Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said couples, or single people, with children tend to rely on extended family so they should be housed locally. He also questioned why a person who was raised in a Council house has to wait 10 years – after the parent applicant has passed on – to take over as tenant.

Cllr Karen Coakley (Ind) said she was greatly concerned about the number of private tenants who are being told the house is to be sold from under them.

‘There are so few houses out there to rent, it will place them on the housing list,’ she said.

Both Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) and Cllr Chris Heinhold (SD) said more consideration needs to be given to single applicants, and more use needs to be made of derelict properties, and apartments above commercial premises.

‘We have a lot of underused properties in this area,’ said Cllr Heinhold.

Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said the allocation of houses in Courtmacsherry to people from outside the area had sparked comment.

‘It’s very concerning the amount of tenants who are getting notices to quit, especially as the rents around Clonakilty town are at an all-time high,’ he added.

‘The lack of availability is also causing massive problems,’ he said. ‘We hear anecdotally of properties that are not in a good condition but the tenants worrying about reporting in case the landlords move them on.’

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said the social connections people have in an area must count for something instead of ‘moving people all over the county’.

Western Division chairman Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) agreed that the Council’s special policy committee will have to reappraise the social housing policy because it needs ‘reworking’.

‘We have to support the people in our communities,’ said Cllr Caroline Cronin (FG) who expressed her delight to see 12 houses in Schull almost finished, and 12 new houses starting in Ballydehob.

Cllr Cronin urged the Council to consider developing more serviced sites that would cater to the needs of young families in the area.

‘There are several land banks all over West Cork that would benefit from these sites,’ she said.

But Mr Manning said it certainly isn’t the case that all of the houses are going to people from outside the area.

‘In any scheme, there might be one or two, but it certainly isn’t the case that people outside of West Cork are prioritised over locals,’ he said.

‘The people who need to be housed are being housed,’ said Mr Manning, who also urged the councillors not to be misled by an address. ‘Just because the address says one thing doesn’t mean they don’t have local connections,’ he added.

‘Our priority is to house people in need. Members are free to propose changes, but I would caution members about making too many changes.’

Under the current CBL system he said people in the western division can look for housing in other parts of the county.

As for changing the system, Mr Manning said: ‘If the Council members have a proposal to make they need to be specific – it is not enough to say the policy needs to be revisited or reappraised.’

During the discussion, Mr Manning also confirmed that single people make up 50% of the housing list.

‘That is something we are trying to address in our delivery programme.’

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