If you own land or have a house to sell, then Clare County Council is very interested in talking to you. Social Development director, Ann Haugh, says the council is exploring every available option to tackle the housing crisis and is currently advertising for people with either land or houses who are interested in dealing with the local authority.
Ireland is emerging from one of the toughest financial crises in modern times. Years of austerity and cutbacks have taken their toll and this is very obvious when it comes to the housing crisis.
In its five-year strategy, Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, the Government has set targets for tackling the crisis. Officials of Clare County Council said some of the targets set for 2018 have been exceeded and it is meeting all others.
Members of the council’s Social Development SPC were told recently that the council was set a target of building 29 housing units this year and so far has delivered 40.
With regards to housing need, the local authority has three main options; new builds, acquisition of existing properties and leasing. In 2018, the council’s acquisitions target is 35 units, it expects to acquire 55 by year-end. With regard to leasing, it is halfway to meeting a target of 100 units but availability is now a problem.
In Clare, there are 2,715 applicants on the waiting list for social housing. Of these, 1,265 receive Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) towards their accommodation costs.
Of the total, some 400 applicants are seeking internal transfers or receiving Rental Assistance Scheme (RAS) payments. When this is taken into account with around 200 who did not reply to the assessment, it has been estimated that there are around 1,000 applicants in need of housing in Clare.
Chairman of the Social Development SPC, Independent councillor Gerry Flynn said he is concerned at recent statements issuing from the Department of Planning and Local Government, that the council will deliver 923 social housing units over the next three years.
He believes this is misleading as it sets unrealistic targets for new builds, leasing and house purchases. Mairead Corbett of the council’s housing section explained that the Department basically halved the housing list to arrive at this figure.
Ms Corbett insisted that the true estimate of housing need in Clare is half of what the Department has stated. She said this year’s target of 164 units consists of 29 new builds, 35 acquisitions and 100 leased.
Clare County Council acknowledges it didn’t build any new houses at all last year. By way of explanation, Ms Corbett said money is only now being made available following the economic crisis and house building is a complex process involving a 59 week planning period and a 4-stage approval process.
She said the council has an ambitious housing programme with a target of 109 new units that are now at various stages, with actual construction beginning in Q3 2018 and continuing into next year.
Commenting on the overall housing issue, Fianna Fáil councillor Tony O’Brien pointed out that the crisis is a national issue and not just confined to Clare.
“We can talk about building a couple of houses here and there but unless local authorities are funded by central Government to build a significant number of new houses right around the country, then we will always be firefighting.
“I think Clare County Council’s housing section has done a tremendous job with scarce resources,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Regarding homelessness in Clare, the Social Development SPC was told that the last available figures at the end of April showed that this year 28 people had sought homeless assistance in the county.
That brought the total number of homeless people in the county to 98. This figure comprises 10 couples with 16 children; 14 single parents with 25 children and 21 single adults in emergency accommodation. Separately 17 people were staying in Laurel Lodge, the men-only hostel.
The council has acknowledged the difficulty in acquiring premises to establish a base for its homeless action team (HAT) and has decided to use its corporate headquarters as a single point of contact.