Environment Minister Alan Kelly has instructed local authorities to ensure at least 30% of their vacant housing stock is given out to people who have disabilities, are homeless, have been victims of domestic violence, or are leaving state care.
Councillors in West Cork who discussed the directive yesterday, said they simply did not have the homes available to carry out the order and needed money from central government to refurbish vacant properties to have any chance of complying with it.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty said the council had no choice about complying with the directive, but added that it could be problematic because it did not have accommodation for single people and may have to allocate them two- or three-bed houses instead.
There was cross-party agreement that this would put families who have been on the waiting list for years even further back that list.
“I don’t know where we’re going to house these people as we don’t have the homes. It will set back those on long-term housing lists even further. 30% of nothing is nothing. There’s no funding to follow it through. It’s completely unworkable and we can’t comply with it,” Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said.
“It’s a bit rich coming from the department when the funding isn’t coming with it. We’re already under pressure trying to house people in West Cork,” said Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind).
Cllr Tim Lombard (FG) said he was very concerned that the council would lose much-needed family-sized homes to single people as a result. “If that’s the case it will have a serious knock-on effect on families,” he said.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said it was going to leave council officials and councillors “with a real headache”.
His party colleague, Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, said the directive “shows a lack of joined up thinking”.
“It’s trying to set targets which are completely unrealistic. We have lots of vacant houses which we haven’t got the money to refurbish. Ideally there should be money for new homes, but in the first instance to do up ones which are vacant,” Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said.
“We should write back to the minister and tell him we don’t believe it’s realistic,” said Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF). Cllr Pat Murphy (FF), who is himself disabled, said he was concerned that most of the council’s vacant homes wouldn’t be suitable for disabled people anyway.
Council officials said they presently had 136 vacant houses and would need around €2.6m from the department to refurbish them to a standard where they could be reoccupied.