Social housing applicants who succeeded in securing homes later turned down Cork County Council offers on a number of grounds, including not being close to schools, public transport, and other amenities.
Many of those who refused houses did not realise they were barred, for one year, from reapplying.
The disclosure came in the local authority’s housing report on Choice Based Letting. The online system was introduced in late 2017 for applicants to consider what was on offer on a weekly basis. To date, 5,585 applicants have logged on.
On average, about 7% of people who are receive an offer later decline it. At a meeting of the council’s northern division Fine Gael councillor Noel McCarthy said he was aware that a lot of applicants simply “did not do their homework” on the location of the property and the services available in the immediate area. Maurice Manning, the council’s director of housing, said his staff were aware that was happening.
“Are you joking?” said Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn, noting it was unfair for others on the waiting list “crying out for houses”.
Mr McCarthy said: “They don’t take into account the location, where the schools are, public transport. They need to be better educated about this.”
The councillor said he was aware that some people would be so desperate they would bid on houses anywhere in the county, which was totally impracticable. He said many were unaware that if they were successful and refused an offer, they would be barred from using the online system for a year. Mr Manning revealed there were 47 such refusals throughout the county, with 16 were in the northern division area.
“That’s very disappointing,” said Mr O’Flynn.
Fianna Fáil councillor Deirdre O’Brien stated: “It’s unacceptable because it delays occupancy.”
Meanwhile, councillors asked that County Hall do more to address the growing number of single people on the housing waiting list. Fianna Fáil councillor Ian Doyle raised the issue when he pointed out there were a lot of single people looking for housing in Charleville.
“We haven’t built one- or two-bed units there since the 1970s,” he said.
Other councillors expressed concern about the increase in single people seeking accommodation in other areas and maintained it was primarily down to an increase in family break-ups. Mr Manning said around 50% of those on the housing list are “looking for small-sized accommodation”.
“Our [housing] delivery programme is being geared to reflect that need,” he said.
Mr Manning pointed out the county council is actively pursuing the lease or purchase of properties in towns and villages which could be converted into accommodation for such people. Councillors urged him and his staff to pursue that measure vigorously as it would not just help ease the homelessness crisis, but would also help with rural regeneration.
The council, meanwhile, has stepped up a campaign to acquire derelict properties through compulsory purchase orders to convert into social housing.