Call for people who turn down council houses to be barred for two years 

Fine Gael city councillor Deirdre Forde has suggested a “get-tough approach” on those who refuse a housing offer.
Call for people who turn down council houses to be barred for two years 

Fine Gael's Deirdre Forde at boarded-up houses in Douglas West. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A Cork City councillor has said that people who refuse a council housing offer should be barred from receiving another housing offer for two years.

The call came from Fine Gael’s Deirdre Forde, after councillors heard that an increase in housing refusals is causing difficulty and delays in the allocation of council houses to other people on Cork City Council’s housing waiting list.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show that almost a third (28%) of all housing offers made by the council last year were refused. It is not clear if the pandemic played a role.

Niall Ó Donnabháin, the director of services in the council’s housing directorate, said there are growing numbers of cases where social housing tenants who have made applications for housing, who have gone through the Choice Based Letting process, identified an area or a house they are interested in, and who have gone through the full and extensive vetting process, turn down a housing offer at the final stage.

And he said the delivery of new housing stock in recent months has, to a certain extent, contributed to some of the refusals.

“The new stock is generally a lot more attractive than some of the older stock, and that’s a feature in terms of the increasing refusal rate,” he said.

The number of refusals is increasing, and that’s causing difficulty, and it’s causing delays as well because we have to start the process again for the next person on the list.

“It’s not for the want of understanding the issue, it’s certainly not for the want of us pushing it forward as best we can.” 

He also told councillors that over the coming months, officials plan to review ways of streamlining the delivery of new housing stock to ensure it is occupied as quickly as possible after construction.

Ms Forde said she was concerned about the rising rate of refusals, and she said that a two-year bar on further housing offers should be considered as part of a “get-tough approach” on those who refuse a housing offer — especially at the very last stage of the process.

“These are people who are vetted to within an inch of their lives, they are then given the opportunity of a house to potentially build their family on, and yet they turn it down,” she said.

We need to forensically examine the reasons, and if those reasons don’t stack up, I think we have to get a little bit tougher.” 

FF councillor Terry Shannon said refusing a house at the final stage is “soul-destroying” for the council’s housing staff, and he called for greater analysis of the reasons for refusal.

Meanwhile, the council has defended outsourcing some of the inspection of private rented properties where the tenants are in receipt of HAP payments.

Sinn Féin councillors Mick Nugent and Fiona Kerins raised concerns about the move.

Mr Ó Donnabháin said an internal council team could manage 1,500 to 1,800 inspections per year, but the 2022 Government target is 5,200 property inspections.

But failure rates and follow-on inspections could mean more than 8,000 inspections may be needed, he said.

“The assistance of an external provider was deemed necessary in the short-term," he said.

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