'Sea-sickness' cited as one of many 'spurious' reasons for turning down council houses

A woman refused a three-storey council house overlooking Cork harbour because she and her children would get sea-sick peering out the window.

Another woman said she would not take a new house because of the dust which had accumulated after builders had finished.

Others refused offers of local authority housing as there was not room for a trampoline in the garden, or because a dog was barking next door, or there was no parking space outside.

Several successful applicants turned down homes in estates because they felt they were not safe for children, even though they were in relatively crime-free areas.

Council officials have confirmed that in two cases successful applicants rejected recent house offers citing that there was not enough room in the gardens for trampolines.

Details of the refusals were highlighted after it emerged it can take more than a year to get social houses ready for new tenants after they are vacated. In Cork, it can take up to 66 weeks to turn the house around; in Kerry it can take up to 55 weeks and up to 44 weeks in Donegal.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that the woman offered the three-storey home in Cobh, overlooking the magnificent views in Cork harbour, and who alleged she and her children suffer from sea-sickness, was living in sheltered accommodation when the offer was made to her by the council.

Another successful applicant turned down a house “because she had to visit her sick father in Africa”.

The council’s director of housing, Mary Ryan, said there were several “spurious” reasons people used to reject houses and said she was dismayed that only five people agreed to take up occupancy of 15 homes the council had recently renovated in the south Cork area.

The council spent up to €30,000 bringing all the homes up to standard, yet despite the supposed housing crisis people did not want 10 of them. The seven three-bed, seven two-bed, and one one-bed homes were advertised for rent in Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Glanmire, Midleton, Whitegate, Inchigeelagh, Blarney, and Coachford areas. Council officials have stated that they have nearly a 40% refusal from those offered homes.

They said the main reasons for refusal were houses were not big enough, gardens were too small, there was no parking outside, and no room for dogs.

Some claimed that estates they were moving into were full of anti-social behaviour — even though many houses on offer were in well-established areas where gardaí confirmed there was little or no crime.

The majority of houses offered to people were in council estates, but some were also in private estates.

There are currently 7,356 people on the county council’s housing waiting list.

Last year the local authority had a target to provide 392 homes to new tenants through building itself or buying private properties. In the event, it managed to provide 469. It has a target to provide a total of 1,217 homes between 2015 and 2017.

Meanwhile, Social Justice Ireland (SJI) warned that the Social Housing 2020 strategy, unveiled by the last government, was insufficient while the Cluid Housing Association said the lengthy average turnaround times between tenancies showed that local authorities needed more resources.

Sean Healy of SJI said 90,000 social housing units were needed in the coming years and said the target in the 2020 document of 35,000 was too low.

While the Department of the Environment rejected suggestions that local authorities were not getting enough money to refurbish ‘voids’, Cluid’s head of policy, Simon Brooke, said the figures showed that money derived from social housing rents needed to be ringfenced and reinvested in social housing.

“What really needs to happen is that all income from social housing must be spent on social housing,” he said.

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