Housing policy contributing to rural decline, council told

Housing policy contributing to rural decline, council told

Cork County Council has been warned its current housing policy is contributing to rural decline due to focusing on building new homes in larger urban areas.

Members of the council's Northern Division expressed their concerns in Mallow today.

Cllr Gerard Murphy claimed: “Smaller towns and villages are not getting social housing because the emphasis is on bigger centres. We are contributing to rural decline.

Schools are closing and GAA clubs are not being able to deliver teams. We need to look seriously at our policy.

Divisional chairman Cllr Bernard Moynihan said “rural Ireland was all but destroyed” but believed there were ways it could be saved.

He pointed out that the development of a small number of houses in the village of Boherbue had attracted young families which had saved a teaching job from being axed in the local national school.

Cllr Moynihan previously highlighted the decline of Knocknagree, a thriving village in the 1960s and 1970s which had lost all its shops and petrol station, with the GAA club forced to amalgamate shortly as it didn't have enough juvenile players.

He said families were not able to get planning permission to build in the area as some officials were too strict.

The council's director of housing Maurice Manning said the council had purchased some 'turn-key houses' from small developers in the villages of Glanworth, Doneraile and Rathcormac and noted he would welcome expressions of interest from small building firms who might have ideas for projects in rural areas.

Cllr Murphy said the matter should be pursued quickly so as to ensure that the populations of some villages were increased "to keep them from dying".

Council officials also said they were examining acquiring derelict homes in villages which they could convert into social housing.

County Hall is currently pursuing around ten Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for properties in the North Cork region with most of them in small villages.

Meanwhile, Cllr John Paul O'Shea questioned why people were refusing houses offered to them by the council under Choice-Based Letting (CBL) system.

The online system was introduced by the council to allow people to see pictures of the interior and exterior of its vacant homes and has proved very successful.

Figures released by the council show, countywide, the local authority offered 548 such homes in the past year of which nearly all were now occupied by new tenants.

However, 37 'successful' applicants subsequently turned them down.

Officials told Cllr O'Shea, in the majority of cases, applicants refused the housing as they did not like the location.

Successful applicants who refuse a property are barred for a year from making an application via the CBL system.

Since launching the CBL, prospective tenants have logged onto the site more than 435,000 times which Cllr Ian Doyle described as a success.

A total of 62,189 expressions of interest in vacant council houses were generated.

Currently, about 74% of waiting list applicants in the county use the online system.

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