Monday 17 December 2018

Controversial housing chief reappointed until end of 2018

Conor Skehan
Conor Skehan
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Conor Skehan has been reappointed chair of the Housing Agency until the end of the year.

The move comes after he was roundly criticised this week for suggesting that some people were "gaming the system" by declaring themselves as homeless in order to secure a home ahead of others on council waiting lists.

The appointment was confirmed in a notice published in State gazette, 'Iris Oifigiúil', but it will only be on a temporary basis.

Last year, the Public Appointments Service advertised the position of chair, and it is understood that 17 people applied. Of these, two were selected as possible candidates, but they later withdrew from the process.

Sources said that the ­position has to be re-advertised as they begin a new recruitment process. The incoming chair must appear before the Dáil housing committee before being approved, and it is understood a decision was made to reappoint Mr Skehan pending selection of a new candidate. It is understood he requested it be on a temporary basis.

Dr Skehan has already served as chair since July 2013, and his term of office was due to expire last month. While entitled to an annual stipend of €11,970, it is understood he did not claim the payment.

The notice in 'Iris Oifigiúil' said that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy had made six appointments to the board of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency (Housing Agency). "The minister has also reappointed Conor Skehan as chair of the agency for the period 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2018," it added.

The Housing Agency said he had been reappointed by the minister "pending the appointment of a new chair". The chair's term of office is normally five years.

The move was criticised by Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin who said it was "hard to understand".

"Conor Skehan has significant expertise in housing ­policy and he has contributed ­positively to our ongoing housing policy debate. However, his recent comments about homeless families 'gaming the system' crossed an important line. To reappoint Conor Skehan to the chair of the Government's housing policy advice body is a bad decision that will undermine the public credibility of the Housing Agency," he said.

A senior lecturer in housing at DIT, Mr Skehan is acknowledged as being an authority on housing matters. A chartered architect, he is a fellow of DIT's Future's Academy and is also a former director of Bord na Móna and former chair of the Peatlands Council.

The Housing Agency was established on a statutory ­basis in 2012 and is tasked with advising the Government on housing policy. However, recent comments by Dr Skehan have resulted in some controversy.

This week he was subject to widespread criticism after he referenced a measure introduced in January 2015, but since dropped, where half of all social homes in Dublin were to be allocated to homeless people. He suggested this may have led people to "game the system", or declare themselves as homeless, to jump the queue for a home.

Dr Skehan, who could not be reached for comment, has also been criticised for ­saying while homelessness was a ­"dreadful thing," Ireland's homelessness problem was low by ­international standards.

Irish Independent

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