By Noel Dundon
As Christmas, the season of goodwill, looms on the horizon, a total of 619 families in North Tipperary are seeking accommodation from North Tipperary County Council, with little or no prospect of any festive joy, The Tipperary Star can reveal.
The realities of the economic downturn are beginning to bite hard on cash strapped families and the local authority is having to bear the brunt of the hit with more and more applicants coming onto the housing list, year on year. A total of 224 applicants have been helped out already this year by the council with 86 having been housed through casual vacancies ( up from 44 in 2010); 25 housed in new or purchased properties; 6 housed in leased properties; 106 transferred to the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and two applicants granted housing loans.
News of the housing crux was divulged at the monthly meeting of the council in Nenagh this week when Director of Housing Mr Karl Cashin outlined the scenario. He further added that 136 applicants had been grant aided under the Housing Adaption Grant Scheme , Mobility Aid Grant Scheme and Scheme of Housing Aid for Older People. This was on top of 73 houses having had energy efficiency works completed compared to 17 in 2010, and 23 houses completed under the Remedial Works Schem.
The local authority has considerable landbanks for residential development in Borrisoleigh, Littleton, Templetuohy, Portroe and Puckane to mention just a few, but the days of local authorities building houses are long since passed, according to official Sharon Kennedy, who informed elected representatives that this was no longer departmental policy.
“We had architects drawing up plans for a number of substantial developments throughout the county, but these have all now been postponed due to the state of the economy and due to the fact that the department has had a change in policy. There is a build to lease scheme – a new scheme where we would go to tender with a private developer or voluntary housing group who would build on our land and then lease the houses back to the council. We have expressed an interest in this programme because we feel that our sites would be appropriate for it,” she said.
Among some of the areas under most demand for local authority housing are: Ballina (61), Borrisokane (40), Newport (46), Borris-Ileigh (34), and Holycross (22).
There was a very lengthy discussion at the meeting with many of the members contributing to the debate. Cllr Michael Smith described the housing department in the council as being the “busiest in the organisation” and it was quite clear from the range of issues raised, that this was an accurate assessment of the present situation. Issues relating to heating systems, public lighting, rents, payments of mortgages, grants for up-grading, and on-going maintainence were among the many discussed during the course of the debate which last for almost 45 minutes.
Meanwhile under the Remedial Works Scheme, contract documentation is being finalized in respect of 3 Estates in Thurles Area (Derrynaflan, Ard Mhuire and Clohessy Place).
Under Energy Efficienty Scheme, 90 houses have been updated to date with a further 2 H in progress and quotations invited for a further 3.
A further 11 Houses remain de-tenanted at Littleton, Bouladuff and Templetuohy as Remedial Works Schemes are due to start in those estates shortly.
Under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, 94 private transfers were completed in 2010 with 98 private transfers and 13 people in Voluntary Housing transferred to date in 2011. In excess of 500 people on list of applicants who are in receipt of rent supplement for 18 months or more.
The Long Term Leasing Scheme provides for the leasing of housing units. The scheme has been advertised nationally and locally. Information sessions were held at four locations in the County in early 2011 and were attended by auctioneers and representatives of financial institutions and credit unions. To date six leases have been put in place.