News

2,500 applicants on social housing waiting list in Offaly / North Tipperary

Thursday, 17 August 2017

THERE are over 2,500 applicants on the social housing waiting list in the constituency of Offaly and North Tipperary. 

This is a very high number. As a result local politicians are regularly dealing with people in overcrowded accommodation, people being evicted from their homes by landlords and banks, and families seeking emergency accommodation.

According to the homelessness charity Simon Communities of Ireland, there are twelve single parent families in emergency accommodation in the midlands region, including a total of 54 children.

Offaly has the highest rate of homelessness in the midlands with 35 adults in emergency accommodation. 

People have been calling on the government for years now to tackle this problem but precious little has been done. Some want the thousands of vacant homes across the state to be brought into use. There are 3,000 vacant dwellings in Offaly alone.

  "A properly funded vacant homes strategy," Deputy Carol Nolan recently commented, "could potentially transform the situation in a relatively short timeframe and at lower cost. I urge the Government and the Minister to prioritise this going forward."

  Cllr John Leahy said he believes the government is not providing funds to adequately tackle the housing crisis because it simply does not have the money available.

  "There's a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting a new house," he remarked. "People are having to wait for planning approval for a year to 18 months. This kind of bureaucracy is probably just a delaying tactic.

  "For example I am the Chair of Mid Offaly Housing and we recently acquired land in the Mountbolus area with the aim of constructing housing. There is nothing which should be stopping this project happening and yet the Department has held us up for the last year. It's very frustrating and our experience is far from unique."

He said homeless people are separated when they present to the local authorities, with the women and children going to emergency accommodation in Mullingar and the men going to Longford.

He warned about concentrating too much on social housing, pointing out that many people in work are not able to afford mortgages or rents.

He said low incomes in the workplace discourages some from working. "For them collecting social welfare is a lifestyle choice. On it they get perks such as back to school allowance, supplementary payment, Christmas bonus. There is no incentive for them to join the workforce. The purpose of Social Welfare should be to protect the vulnerable, not to be used as a lifestyle choice.

 The councillor said he is aware of a number of people living in overcrowded conditions in their parents' home. He said he knows of one family in Tullamore living in emergency accommodation, in this instance a B&B.

Deputy Barry Cowen said the Government needs to be "much more proactive in its effort to bring vacant homes back into use.

"Fundamentally the housing crisis can only be tackled long term by building more homes in areas where people want to live. The Government needs to deliver on an ambitious social and affordable housing programme. The progress to date has been slow and people right across the country are suffering as a result. The Government will miss its own targets unless the current pace of delivery improves significantly in the months ahead."

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