By Kevin O'Neill & Rob McNamara
Just over 65% of people on the housing list in Cork have engaged with an online system to allocate social housing.
According to the latest available figures from Cork City and County Council, there are 11,925 people on the housing list but only 7,793 have engaged with the online Choice Based Letting (CBL) system – the only way to currently register an interest in a vacant council property.
The system allows housing applicants to 'bid' on properties advertised by logging on to the both council's websites every week.
In the city, just 54% of housing applicants are using the system with 2,088 on the waiting list not active on CBL, according to the Council's latest housing report.
More than a quarter of housing applicants in the county have not logged onto CBL and councillors have claimed it is excluding non-tech savvy people from applying for homes.
A housing report from Cork County Council shows that of the 7,316 people seeking housing who have been allocated pin numbers for the system, just 5,272 have logged on to the system – a total of 72%.
Cobh representatIve Sinead Sheppard (FG) said the majority of people attending her clinics need help with using the system.
“A number of people have approached me to say they have never gone on CBL, they don't know how to do it and they got their pin in the door but they are not aware of what to do.
“There are a lot of people out there, mostly of a certain age, that just don't have the internet or don't use it and are then at a disadvantage because they don't bid on properties.
“I am finding that I am travelling to people's homes myself and elderly people are sending me their pins and I am going on to the system myself bidding for them. I do a clinic monthly and the majority of people I am trying to show how to do the CBL [process],” she added.
Blarney-based Des O'Grady (SF) said the Council should provide people with a choice of how they submit their application for a housing.
“[Applicants] should be allowed to submit bids on houses by letter, by text, by phone call or by representation through a councillor or anybody else.
According to Macroom representative Michael Creed (FG), some people with housing needs are falling “through the cracks” of the system.
“We have to help these people. They are vulnerable and they haven't got the internet. They are older people who are not up to date with modern technology.” In Youghal, Mary Linehan Foley (IND) said some people have never even heard of the system.
County Council housing director Maurice Manning stated that the Council has written to all applicants who are yet to log on to CBL and training on how to use the system is available to anyone who requires it.
“A number of applicants have indicated that they are satisfied with their current situation and others have indicated that nothing of interest came up, while others said they are no longer interested in housing.
"I don't think there is ever going to be a point when 100% of our applicants engage with the CBL system. The numbers that are engaging continue to increase and we will continue to work with people so they can access the system,” he added.
However, city Councilor Chris O'Leary (SF) acknowledges there are difficulties for housing applicants without internet access and computer literacy skills but believes there is a personal responsibility on housing applicants to learn how to use the system and has pointed to the supports available.
“Sometimes I think because people are on the housing list they think they are automatically going to get a call for a house. People don't realise that they have to bid via CBL,” he said.
"However, they can be slow to use the system as they might not have access to the internet. From my experience initially, I would say people were having problems, but in fairness to City Council, housing applicants can use the system at City Hall and they will be taken through it step by step.
“In this day and age, they have to be proactive. They can't just assume they will get a property because the houses just aren't there,” he added.
This story first appeared on EveningEcho.ie