THE number of people on Cork city’s social housing waiting list has for the first time passed the 8,000 mark.
The record figures revealed at a city council meeting last night prompted calls for a root and branch review of how the figures are compiled.
The council was told that at least half could be on the list simply to claim rent supplement, allowing them to remain in private rented accommodation.
City manager Joe Gavin said there must be a way of segregating those who are genuinely in need of social housing from those on the list for a “variety of other reasons”.
The Department of the Environment should address the criteria it lays down for the compilation of such figures, he said.
But Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry said even if half those on the list have a genuine need for social housing, the figures are “shocking”.
“It’s not just the numbers — it’s the direction of and the speed at which these figures are moving,” he said.
Last March, over 6,000 were on the list with a further 800 awaiting report.
Last night’s figures showed that at the end of May, there were 7,422 eligible applicants on the list with a further 671 awaiting assessment — that’s 8,093 combined.
“We have a perfect storm brewing on this,” Mr Barry said.
“At the current rate of increase, the city’s social housing waiting lists could very well reach the 10,000-mark by the end of the year.
“There is a mountain of human misery lying behind these statistics and the situation is a damning indictment of both Government policy and the housing policies of the pact parties on Cork City Council.”
But Cllr Denis O’Flynn (Lab) said the figures are completely wrong: “We have a 40% refusal rate in this council. There are some people, that if you offered them Buckingham Palace in the morning, they wouldn’t take it. They are happy where they are.”
Cllr Tim Brosnan (FF) also said there are people on the housing list who shouldn’t be there, and who have no intention of accepting a local authority house.
“We need a major analysis of the list to see who is refusing homes,” he said.
Cllr Seán Martin (FF) said if the situation was as bad as Cllr Barry suggested, people would be protesting on the steps of City Hall.
“There has been overwhelming investment over the last decade in the city’s social housing stock,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Jonathon O’Brien said it is impossible to have a proper debate on this issue until councillors have accurate figures.
And Cllr Thomas Gould said the council can’t tackle the housing issue without substantial Government help.
Cllr Ted Tynan (WP) called on the main parties to accept there is a housing crisis, and to tackle the problem.
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