County councillor Ian McGarvey has accused Donegal’s six TD’s of failing the county after he said there is a social housing crisis with close to 4,300 on waiting lists.
And the former Mayor of Donegal has predicted that unless urgent funding is found, the crisis will escalate well beyond 5000 homeless families next year.
Deputy Thomas Pringle agrees saying in Donegal, three houses have been built in the past three years.
Cllr McGarvey told the Tirconail Tribune it is estimated that with the number of people in receipt of rent allowance for more than 18 months and who are prioritised under the housing policy it brings the number up to around 4,300 at the moment.
Thomas Pringle said in his Dail comments: “The only reason we were able to get three houses built in three years was that they had already been tendered and contractors appointed when the Government slashed the programme. We had to fight to get those three approvals to go to construction; one per year for 2012, 2013 and 2014, for 4,300 people in need of housing assistance,” he said.
Cllr. McGarvey said the official numbers on the Council’s waiting lists stands at 2750 but he believes there may be another thousand families in need.
“But they do not meet the official guidelines laid down by the local authority and they are left high and dry,” said Cllr. McGarvey.
At the moment the Council has a figure of 2216 applicants on qualified waiting lists with a further 341 on a rental allowance scheme along with a further 172 families availing of a leasing arrangement through the Council.
McGarvey says that the Council has a serious lack of funding and only ten social housing units will be constructed in Donegal in 2015.
The Ramelton Cllr. was recently told that the Council has plans in their current programme to construct ten houses in 2015. This includes a small housing development of six units in Letterkenny.
Cllr. McGarvey has also criticised Government policy that has seen specific instance housing cancelled and funding for rural Farm cottages no longer an option.
He says the situation is at crisis point with demand growing all the time. And he’s highlighted landlords putting rented properties on the market and tenants being notified to find alternative housing. This, says Cllr. McGarvey is down to the problem that second houses that are currently being rented out have attracted a list of extra charges and costs with property tax and water charges adding to the problem And in that situation, landlords are now selling of their houses because renting out is not worth the hassle given the diminishing returns they might earn.
Deputy Thomas Pringle agrees. Speaking in the Dail on the issue of social housing last Spring, he said there is no escaping the fact that there is no political will to deal with the housing issue.
Deputy Pringle said: “I do not believe in the way housing has been treated in recent years. The usual excuses that have been trotted out are that we have been in a very difficult financial situation, that we have been reliant on others to keep us going, and we blame Fianna Fáil for putting us in that situation. Clearly, the figures for social housing completions have declined from 6,600 in 2007 to 1,000 at the end of 2012 and have declined even further now as no new units are being built. Housing purchases decreased from 2,000 in 2007 to 56 at the end of September 2013 and local authority housing progression went from 7,700 in 2007 to zero in 2010. That shows the extent of the crisis because of the factors that have been outlined by other Deputies including the mortgage crisis, spiralling rents and people’s inability to provide for themselves.
The number of people dependent on and seeking social housing has mushroomed and increased significantly. In Donegal, there are 2,600 people on the housing waiting list. It is estimated that with the number of people in receipt of rent allowance for more than 18 months and who are prioritised under the housing policy it brings the number up to approximately 4,300.
In Donegal, under a leasing programme, 78 houses have been approved and under the NAMA scheme 59 houses have been deemed acceptable for social housing, but yet none of those houses has been completed and none of the transfers has been completed. There is a huge crisis in Donegal.
There is a crisis in rural areas because of the decline in housing provision by local authorities which makes it very difficult for people to meet their accommodation needs. It appears to me that the main pitch of Government policy is to rely on the private sector through the rental accommodation scheme, through rent allowance and long-term leasing.
It is time the position improved and it is time to start rolling out a building programme which deals with people’s housing needs. Such a programme could also help stimulate the local economy and local employment if the Government was creative and ensured that social clauses were included in the tendering contracts and ensured that the successful tenderers were compliant with all the labour law and the requirements for operating in the 26 counties The responses of the Minister for Social Protection and the Department around the issue of rent allowance are disgraceful. I hope when it comes under the housing sections of the local authorities that it will be dealt with more properly. The idea that the rental subsidy cannot be increased because it would increase the rent is completely wrong.
All the Department of Social Protection has done is develop a black market for landlords because tenants have no choice but to put in the rent under the cap otherwise they will be refused rent allowance straight away and they have to pay, in cash, the difference to the landlords. That is what has happened right across the country. Every Deputy in the country would say that.
The rent allowance also shows the complete failure of the private sector to deal with any of the housing issues because landlords will capitalise on it and use rent allowance. Many landlords will refuse to take rent allowance from clients, which is another unfair outcome of the operation of the system. That happens particularly in the cities but also in rural areas where landlords will refuse to accept rent allowance clients as tenants. Some of this may be due to the fact that their properties are not known about or registered but it is a huge problem,” added Deputy Pringle.