Emergency meeting sought on housing in Tipp
A call has been made for an emergency meeting on the housing situation in Tipperary.
It follows frustration over the lack of housing availability and spiralling rent costs in Nenagh, where there are presently 757 applicants waiting for social housing. The neighbouring Thurles-Templemore district has some 945 applicants awaiting housing.
Presenting these figures in the Dáil last week, Deputy Michael Lowry said there is a total of 3,588 applicants awaiting social housing across Tipperary, and that these people are “living in sub-standard housing conditions”.
Deputy Lowry stated: “We’re told that, in the next year, there will be 230 houses available. There’s a massive shortfall.” He was addressing Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien after hearing that Tipperary County Council has been issued with a target to deliver 887 new build social homes between 2022 and 2026. This includes a target for 2022 of 230 new builds.
Deputy Lowry said the council’s Housing section is progressive, organised and does a good job in terms of the delivery of social and affordable housing. “However”, he added, “it has to be noted that due to a lack of building over the years and because of a change in policy, we have a problem in Tipperary with regard to the availability of social housing.
“Many people, when they read about the housing issue, think that it’s a city issue, but it’s not. It’s also a rural Ireland issue.”
Nenagh councillor Séamie Morris made the call for an emergency meeting out of “absolute frustration” with the local housing situation. He said he is dealing with more and more working families “who find themselves being squeezed out of the housing market”.
In correspondence with the council’s Housing section, he said landlords are selling up or increasing their rents by in some cases up to €300 per month. "The clock is ticking for a lot of these families, who have been abandoned by the State as they are unable to access housing support and aren’t earning enough for the crazy rents that are being requested in Nenagh," Cllr Morris claimed.
In reply, Senior Executive Officer Cora Morrissey understood the frustration in relation to the current housing situation, and pointed out that the Government has sought to address the problem with its recently published policy document ‘Housing for All - a new housing Plan for Ireland’. Ms Morrissey pointed out that Tipperary Co Council has met or exceeded its housing targets under all headings set down by the Department, including the housing construction programme, housing acquisition programme, long-term leasing, Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), grants, Housing Action Plan (HAP and homeless action plan.
"In respect of the HAP scheme, we have provided discretional additional rental payments to every applicant who has applied for same and have negotiated with landlords under RAS, long-term leasing and HAP to ensure as few tenants as possible are served with a notice to quit," Ms Morrisey told Cllr Morris.
"In addition, we have worked very hard to ensure that vacant properties are turned around and available for letting as quickly as possible. We have reviewed our administration to ensue that offers of housing are made as expeditiously as possible, thus cutting down length of time that properties are vacant.
"A new allocation scheme was adopted by the elected members and came into effect on October 1 2021, which for the first time takes into account the length of time applicants are approved for housing when allocating properties.
"We have just signed the contract for the introduction of Choice-Based Letting. It is hoped that the scheme will be up and running as and from January 1 2020. This scheme will put choice for the client at the centre of our allocation procedures and it is hoped that it will lead to a reduction in our refusal rate, which remains high at between 20% and 30%.
"Finally, we are obliged to prepare a Housing Action Plan on a yearly basis, which sets out measurable targets for each function of the section. This allows for increased focus on planning services to ensure that an integrated and holistic approach is adopted to the provision of housing supports for all approved housing applicants."
Despite the council’s comprehensive response to the situation, Ms Morrissey added: "unless the private sector plays its role in the provision of affordable housing, there will be a continuing supply issue".
The council-owned site at Stereame, Nenagh, has long been regarded as a suitable location for a significant new housing development. Ms Morrissey said procurement process is underway and out for tender with a closing date of November 22.
"To note, the council has zoned significant tracts of land throughout the county to facilitate private residential development and will continue to assess land activation measures to encourage the delivery of housing to the market."
Welcoming the response, Cllr Morris acknowledged "the incredible amount of work Tipperary County Council are putting into helping people on housing lists, and I also see that there will be supports as announced by the Government." He concluded: "My feeling is we need an emergency housing meeting to discuss a tool box of medium to short-term solutions."