The next government is to be urged to create a specific policy to bolster the building of social housing on the islands to ensure their populations don’’t die out.
The request is being made by the municipal district council which is responsible for more islands than any other local authority in the country.
The West Cork Municipal District Council administers seven inhabited islands off the south-west coast.
On average it costs an extra €40,000 to build a house on an island, primarily because construction equipment has be ferried out and back.
The county council is providing a lot of social houses on the mainland, but there is a drought of building on the islands, which is a cause of major concern.
Cllr Declan Hurley won unanimous support from fellow West Cork councillors when he said they must urge the new government to introduce a specific policy/scheme to support the development of social housing to save and sustain the future of our island communities.
“Our West Cork islands are experiencing an acute shortage of permanent social housing, while there is a significant number of second homes on the islands. The availability of the existing housing stock for permanent occupation is affected, this is a persistent issue for most islands," Mr Hurley said.
He said the future sustainability and permanent population of island communities is in need of a specific policy/scheme to support the development of social housing to sustain and save the future population of our island communities.
“The main issue is the availability of affordable housing that can be occupied on a year-round basis. The result of a well consulted and implemented social housing scheme will attract a permanent population on the islands," Mr Hurley said.
"It is important to recognise that the needs of offshore islands may vary considerably and that the specific assets and characteristics of each island need individual responses, this is where the West Cork Islands Community Council and the West Cork Islands Interagency Group can consult on individual island issues," Mr Hurley added.
He pointed out that the cost of living on the islands is reportedly 40% higher than the mainland’s average.
This severely affects the cost of building for the young population on the islands due to transport costs, getting supplies to and from the islands and paying for skilled construction workers to travel and stay on the islands during construction.
“Island communities are striving to maintain and develop their own futures, the least the new government can do is to meet these communities halfway with real social housing policies in place. An example of this would be an Island’s Bill, which was introduced in Scotland in 2017 to deal with this issue, the rural economy and the connectivity of the Islands," Mr Hurley said.