Sunday 4 December 2016

Fiasco as up to half of housing offers are rejected

Kelly to review high rate of housing refusals

Published 05/12/2015 | 02:30

Environment Minister Alan Kelly is now considering the introduction of new rules surrounding the provision of social housing
Environment Minister Alan Kelly is now considering the introduction of new rules surrounding the provision of social housing

Hundreds of families on council housing waiting lists are turning down homes because they don’t like the area.

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In several parts of the country, well over a third of offers made by councils have been turned down in the last year.

The Department of the Environment is now closely monitoring rejection rates.

In Dublin City – where the homeless crisis is most severe – almost one in five families turned down offers of homes.

The refusal figure is as high as 49pc in Cork county, 46pc in Waterford, 42pc in counties Roscommon and Donegal and 40pc in Cork City.

Families turn down offers of homes for a wide variety of reasons, including poor access to facilities such as schools and other important services.

But councils are now telling the Department of the Environment of their frustration over so-called ‘serial refusers’.

Officials say offers are being turned down in many cases simply because people don’t like the area or the house.

Under the current system, those on the list give three preferred options for a new home – but often turn down an offer if it isn’t their first choice.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly is now considering the introduction of new rules surrounding the provision of social housing.

The housing offer rejection figures are contained in a Department of Environment survey of the country's housing departments, which has been seen by the Irish Independent.

The figures relate to the 12-month period until the end of September.

In feedback to the department, officials have warned that in many cases, families are rejecting offers because they say they do not feel suited to the area.

"We do have to address the fact that people turn down homes because they don't like the property being offered," a senior Government source said.

At the moment, if a family fails to provide a legitimate reason for turning down an offer of a home, they become 'blacklisted' for a 12-month period. In cases where a council receives three refusals from the same applicant, they can be struck off the list entirely.

Mr Kelly will now consider new rules aimed at tackling the rate of refusals.

These include reducing the number of refusals families can make before being struck off the housing list.

The minister is also examining the introduction of a 'choice-based letting' system whereby applicants have greater say over the areas in which they are accommodated.

One of the country's leading housing experts called for a overhaul of the waiting list system.

DIT lecturer in housing Dr Lorcan Sirr warned the issue is far more complex and said further studies are required into why families are refusing homes.

But Dr Sirr said the figures show councils, in some cases, are dealing with families who reject offers for non- housing related reasons.

He said that these include "tribal reasons" - families not wanting to live near each other - as well as a lack of suitability of the property being offered.

"In times of depleted resources, this is obviously very frustrating for local authorities dealing not alone with issues of allocation of resources, but also with the sociological side of dealing with families and their non-housing issues that relate to where they want to live," he said.

Irish Independent

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