Councils swamped by demand for housing
THE collapse of Ireland's property market has resulted in a near doubling of social housing waiting lists in major cities.
Figures obtained from local authorities by the Irish Independent show that Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford have experienced an explosion in demand for local authority housing over the past 18 months.
The stark figures include:
- A hike of 64pc in Cork (7,519 in February 2010 compared to 4,607 in June 2008).
- A hike of 23pc in Dublin (6,108 in March 2009 compared to 4,991 in March 2008). Figures for 2010 for Dublin City Council have not yet been compiled but it is estimated that the demand has increased substantially over the past 12 months.
- An increase of 39pc in Galway (2,800 in March 2010 compared to 2,023 in June 2008).
- A rise of 48pc in Limerick (2,829 in March 2010 compared to 1,900 in June 2008).
Cork, Galway and Limerick are now facing the greatest demand for social housing in modern recorded history. Councils agree the pressure on housing lists is a direct result of the recession, combined with rising unemployment.
Fears are also mounting that if interest rates spiral as predicted, the numbers seeking social housing could soar further.
Cash-strapped Irish councils are struggling to cope with the flood of applications for local authority housing amid growing pressure for privately-owned "ghost estates" to be secured on long-term, cut-price leases by local authorities. The Government has already told councils to make use of long-term leasing of private housing as an alternative to the social housing construction programme (SHCP) but, in some cities, the response has been dismal. Some analysts blame NAMA for the reluctance of developers to release estates to long-term council leasing.
In other cases, housing units proposed to councils are unsuitable because of their location, state of completion and lack of adjacent amenities, including transport and schools.
Social housing campaigner Mick Barry said it was alarming that at the very time the Government's housing policy was floundering, demand for social housing was reaching record highs.
Mr Barry, a Socialist Party councillor in Cork, said: "It is clear the recession has caused a significant increase in demand for social housing, with people who previously aspired to purchasing their homes on the open market now putting their names on the lists for council housing." He added that it was "mind-boggling" that this was happening at the same time the Government had slashed the SHCP budget -- with Cork's budget more than halved from €54m last year to €22m.
"There are 345,000 vacant properties in the State, according to a recent UCD report. There are 170,000 vacant properties if you factor out derelict houses, transient rent supplies and holiday homes. This should be more than enough property to wipe out the social housing waiting lists relatively quickly.
But developers are not making properties available despite the Government putting a leasing scheme in place which amounts to a bail out for those developers," he said.