A county councillor has claimed he and some of his colleagues are being criticised by the public because of a new system which allows people to apply for local authority houses anywhere in Co Cork.
Councillor Joe Carroll said the Choice-Based Letting (CBL) online system of allocating vacant houses might be viewed as being successful by council officials but it was leading to disquiet in some communities.
Under the system, when a council house becomes vacant any person on the housing waiting list can apply for it, no matter where they live.
He told a meeting of the council’s western division in Dunmanway that he was aware of people getting council houses through CBL who had lived 80km away from them.
“The local councillor is then getting the brunt of this from local people who were on the waiting list and didn’t get the house,” said Mr Carroll. “This county is so big that you could have somebody from Youghal getting a house in Skibbereen.”
Councillor John O’Sullivan said there should be some mechanism for allocating CBL properties whereby being local is acknowledged as a qualifying point.
“It is causing frustration for people on a waiting list for eight to nine years, but if somebody who’s homeless gets a house then good luck to them,” said councillor Paul Hayes.
Maurice Manning, the council’s director of housing, admitted that in some cases successful applicants were given houses in areas they hadn’t a connection with.
Mr Carroll pointed out that if somebody was applying for planning permission to build a house they would be refused if they didn’t have a connection with the area they had picked for it.
He maintained the council was therefore guilty of double standards.
Mr Manning said everybody who qualified under the housing waiting list had an opportunity to express an interest in any vacant house and it would be very difficult to implement the suggestion made by Mr O’Sullivan.
Mr Manning said that “those most in need” would be given the vacant houses and it didn’t matter where they came from.
Councillor Christopher O’Sullivan also maintained that outsiders were getting houses before locals.
“There is a scary scenario with 56 [council] houses coming on stream at Beach Grove, Clonakilty,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “There’s a potential scenario that not one person from Clonakilty will be allocated any of those houses.”
Mr Manning maintained that where the council had built housing schemes in the past the majority were allocated to local people.
Councillor John O’Sullivan said that it was better for communities that people who had family and sporting club connections with their home areas got a bit more recognition with the CBL.
A row then broke out when some other councillors said they were against discriminating against non-locals.
“It’s about the importance of getting a home,” said councillor Rachel McCarthy, who was totally against favouring locals.
Councillor Mary Hegarty agreed with her, saying that “West Cork had been enriched by new blood.”
Councillor Gillian Coughlan said “it was a dangerous road to go down” to discriminate in favour of locals.
The debate ended when Mr Manning said that the council had no intention of changing CBL criteria.
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