New social houses to cater for disabled

New council houses built in Cork will be designed to be disability-friendly, or easily adaptable should somebody become infirm or suffer a life-changing accident.

A plan has been drawn up by Cork County Council, in conjunction with the city council, to address the needs of people who suffer sensory disability, mental health issues, physical disability, and intellectual disability.

The local authorities now plan to ensure that there are enough social houses built which will be designed specifically to cater for disabled people on their housing waiting lists.

A meeting of the county council heard that the Housing Strategic Policy Committee, chaired by Cllr Seamus McGrath, had drawn up the plan.

It recognises that people with disabilities should have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live.

There are currently 663 people on the county council’s housing waiting list who are classified as having a disability.

Of those, 390 fall into the physical disability class, 57 have sensory issues, 166 are deemed to have mental health issues, and 50 have been identified as having an intellectual disability.

The council has a housing stock of 7,511 units.

Annually a number of tenants, through new disability or injury, require alternative accommodation due to the inadequate nature of their existing living arrangements.

This can be addressed through a transfer arrangement if appropriate accommodation is available.

The decision to transfer may be made as a less costly alternative to adaption works, or where necessary adaption works are not feasible due to the nature of the property.

The council also administers housing adaptation grants for people who become disabled or infirm who live in private properties.

It hands out hundreds of these grants every year.

The new draft policy recognises that there will always be an emerging need to cater for people with disabilities, and estimates have been made of how many will require disabled-friendly accommodation in the future.

The council is also reviewing its housing stock to identify all adapted properties to ensure they are retainedin so far as this is possible.

Mr McGrath told his colleagues that new housing units would be constructed in such a way as to be easily adaptable to cater for people with disabilities.

“The cost of retrofitting units would be much more, so it makes sense,” he said.

Cllr Eoghan Jeffers described the document as progressive and said he was delighted that autism had been recognised in it.

“All social housing should have a certain amount of fitting (done for disabilities) at the build stage,” said Cllr Kevin Murphy.

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