Fears over social housing in Waterford

Large-scale social housing schemes “can be dangerous and lead to anti-social behaviour”, a county councillor in Waterford has warned.

Séamus O’Donnell’s concerns focused on a proposed 20-unit housing scheme in Ballinroad, a small village about 3km from Dungarvan.

The independent councillor claimed “the Garda barracks is too far away if something serious happened”.

At a Dungarvan-Lismore Municipal District meeting, he suggested the council should build “seven or eight houses at first and see how we go”.

Mr O’Donnell, who operates a small farm and a pub in the Ring Gaeltacht, said he was not against affordable housing but “people don’t want to see anti-social behaviour going on in their area”.

“We have seen enough of it across the county already,” he said.

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He also said he was “getting phone calls every night and day” from people asking “why are there 20 social houses going into Ballinroad and not being spread around across the county as they should be?”

The remarks came as Waterford City and County Council grapples with lengthy housing application lists — a common problem countrywide.

A council spokesperson said the most recent available social housing waiting list, from 2013, shows 1,374 applications in Waterford City, 375 in the county and 128 in the former Dungarvan Town Council electoral area.

John Pratt (FG) said he was “dumbfounded” and “disappointed” by Mr O’Donnell’s remarks and did not think “all the people living in social houses are out there causing trouble”.

He conceded there could be an issue with 40 to 50 social housing units in one scheme but believed a 20-house scheme would benefit the county.

The council’s director of housing services, Michael Quinn, said Ballinroad was ideal for 20 social houses.

There had been an approach by the council, he said, to construct a “relatively small-scale development where an excessive number of social housing” did not already exist.

He was confident the project would be successful.

However, chairman Damien Geoghegan (FG) accused Mr O’Donnell of referring to anti-social behaviour “as if it’s exclusive to social housing, which it’s not”.

“I want to distance myself from your remarks,” he told Mr O’Donnell.

Mr Geoghegan said he had received “three times as many complaints” about private housing occupants than about those in social housing. The worst offenders, he said, were often in privately-rented properties where investors had to meet mortgage repayments.

“It’s the sector which we have the least control over.”

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