Cork City Council: ‘We lack resources for social housing targets’

Senior city officials in Cork have admitted that they do not have the resources to deliver on ambitious social housing targets earmarked for a multimillion government grant.

Cork City Council: ‘We lack resources for social housing targets’

Environment Minister Alan Kelly announced details last week of a build, buying, and leasing scheme which will see about €1.5bn ploughed in to local authority social housing programmes nationwide.

The funding was allocated based on targets and building projects brought forward by each local authority.

Government TDs hailed the sanctioning of €204m for the two local authorities in Cork which they said would allow the councils embark on a combination of building, buying and leasing schemes to accommodate 25% of those currently on the housing waiting lists.

Cork County Council was allocated just over €80m which government TDs said would help cut its housing list 25% through the delivery of 1,217 social housing units by the end of 2017.

The city council was allocated €124m to deliver 1,349 social housing units by the end of 2017 — an investment it was claimed would reduce the city’s housing list by 21%.

However, Sinn Féin questioned city officials on Monday about the targets.

Thomas Gould said staffing levels in the city’s housing department had been decimated, and he could not see how they could deliver on the targets.

In reply, officials admitted they do not have the resources to deliver on the targets.

However, they said would be engaging in talks with the Department of the Environment over the coming weeks about the specifics of how and when the social housing funding will be spent.

Anti Austerity Alliance councillor, Mick Barry, a member of the council’s housing committee, said the funding package would not solve the city’s social housing crisis, and he claimed it would open the door further to the privatisation of social housing.

He said the 1,349 social housing units earmarked for Cork represented less than one in six of those currently on the city’s housing list, and could represent less than one in 10 by the end of 2017.

“The minister announced this plan with great fanfare and no doubt he hopes it makes himself and the Labour Party look good in the run-in to a general election.

“But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people on the city’s housing waiting lists will still be without social housing in two and a half years’ time despite the fanfare and the bluster unless far more radical measures are taken.”

He said many houses in the package are not council properties but would be provided by approved housing bodies or lease arrangements with private landlords under the rental accommodation scheme or housing assistance payment scheme.

“Here we have a Labour Party minister presiding over the privatisation of social housing. A large percentage of the new accommodation [Alan] Kelly is boasting about will actually be private accommodation on long-term leases brokered by councils that people will be forced to accept on pain of having their rent allowance cut off.”

He said this would involve people having their names taken off council waiting lists on the grounds rent allowance or housing assistance payment was a form of social housing provision.

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