Sinn Féin councillor Tom Gould led criticism of the housing assistance payment scheme at Monday’s meeting of Cork City Council where earlier, about 30 people protested against the initiative outside City Hall.
The scheme will see 50,000 long-term rent allowance recipients removed from social housing waiting lists across the country — including approximately 5,000 in the Cork City area.
If implemented as it is hoped in 2015, the scheme would effectively halve the number on Cork City’s social housing waiting list alone.
Anti Austerity Alliance councillor Mick Barry, who organised the protest, said the scheme will mark the end of social housing as we know it. “Tens of thousands of people will be taken off the housing lists, kept in private rented accommodation and told that they are in receipt of social housing by virtue of the payment they receive towards paying the rent,” he said.
“We need more social housing, not crazy schemes such as the housing assistance payment scheme.”
The scheme was roundly criticised by city councillors during the meeting.
Mr Gould said it is “the biggest fiddle of figures since the banking crisis”.
He added that people who have spent years in rented private accommodation while languishing on the social housing waiting list, and who will now be part of the scheme, will have no prospect of getting a council home. “It is an attack on ordinary people,” Mr Gould said.
It was one of several housing issues discussed at Monday’s meeting.
The council was told that an extra €360,000 has been made available to repair an additional 84 vacant council homes — separate to funding announced during the summer to repair 174 so-called voids.
Cllr Des Cahill (FG) welcomed the announcement which he said would almost halve the number of voids in the city.
But Cllr Fergal Dennehy (FF) called for an extension of the November deadline for the funding drawdown, amid concerns that the council does not have enough staff to the work quickly enough.
Mr Barry said Mr Cahill should stop covering up for his colleagues in Government and demand that the November deadline be extended to allow the council fix the 84 houses within a reasonable timeframe.