Several local councillors said little was being done to build or buy houses in villages that were shedding populations and that this threatened their existence. Maurice Manning, the county council’s new director of housing, told a meeting of the council’s northern division, in Mallow, of local authority plans to have provided 1,217 houses to people on the housing waiting list by the end of 2017.
However, he said that most of the major house-building projects had been being earmarked for larger urban areas, such as Douglas, Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Midleton, Fermoy, and Clonakilty. While the council is set to purchase one-off houses in some rural villages, councillors say they are ignoring the huge need to get new blood into some communities, especially north-west Cork.
Fine Gael’s Gerard Murphy thanked Mr Manning for his report and said there was an enormous amount of work being done around the county.
However, he said that he was concerned that little or no council houses were being built in the rural area west of Kanturk.
“The Kiskeam, Cullen, and Boherbue and Rockchapel areas are dying on their feet,” said Fianna Fáil’s Bernard Moynihan. “We should look at those rural villages to revitalise and re-energise them. The schools there are crying out for new pupils.”
Fianna Fáil’s Ian Doyle, chairman of the northern division, agreed with him and urged the senior council official to look at buying flats over shops, and other properties, in these villages to bolster their populations.
The councillors said that if the populations of such villages continued to fall, then it would lead to the closure of small businesses and schools and result in a downward spiral, and eventually sound their death knell.
Mr Murphy said there are many good properties in these villages which could be acquired for very small money and which would require even less to do them up — giving the council a cheaper option than building new homes.
Meanwhile, the meeting in Mallow also heard that a large percentage of council tenants in the north Cork area were not paying their rent.
After reading Mr Manning’s housing report, Fine Gael’s Noel McCarthy said rent arrears were an issue, as 40% of them were still outstanding from last year, amounting to €500,000.
“This is a worrying trend. We must address this as soon as possible. We have nearly 2,000 people in our area who need to be housed and we need this money for them,” Mr McCarthy said.
Independent John Paul O’Shea said he was “shocked” to read that 146 council tenants in the region had given up their homes in the past 12 months and wondered why that was, especially in the current financial climate.