Monday 27 May 2019

Housing funds have run out

The Municipal District of Dundalk Councillors at a meeting held in The Holy Trinity Heritage Centre, Carlingford
The Municipal District of Dundalk Councillors at a meeting held in The Holy Trinity Heritage Centre, Carlingford

Louth County Council's housing maintenance budget for 2018 has run out, members of the Dundalk Municipal District heard at their September meeting.

Cllr Ruariri O'Murchu raised concerns about work that was not being done to council tenants homes, some of which were vital repairs.

Cllr. Emma Coffey agreed, saying that it was important a timeline be made available of when works will be carried out, especially with the winter months are ahead.

Cllr. Maria Doyle pointed out that there was an increase in maintenance requests this year, but there was no indication as to why.

Council spokeswoman Aoife Lawlor admitted that there were difficulties with the budget for housing maintenance. She said there was a 'significant overspend' on the budget last year.

She explained that the council realised in April that they were 'not going to be able to meet all the requests for maintenance.'

She explained that additional funds were released, but it was not enough to cover all requests for the remainder of the year.

She said that efforts were being made to secure more funds but there was no confirmation as yet.

Cllr. Peter Savage raised a case of a tenant who had been waiting for seven years.

He asked about maintenance requests involving damp, and if they are responded to by the council.

Ms. Lawlor said that damp can be a problem which emerges in a lot of requests. She added that some of it is due to tenant behaviour, and that the keeping of a property was something tenants are advised on before they move in.

She said that the local authority might consider a wider campaign on the issue.

Cllr. Savage also asked if the local authority were still purchasing houses.

The housing officer explained the council are involved in 'targeted acquisition' in specific areas.

Cllr. Mark Dearey asked what the current situation was with regard to maintenance works.

Director of Service Frank Pentony said that such was the demand that funds had been used meeting the increasing requests.

He said that all departments operate with a budget, and that the funds for maintenance had run out.

Cllr. Anne Campbell asked what level of funds would be needed for the budget for maintenance works. She added that councillors would shortly be going into 'pre-budget talks' sand it was an important stage.

Ms. Lawlor responded that it was 'very difficult' to predict what would be needed as it is a 'reactive' situation.

Cllr. John McGahon said it was his view that it was unfair tenants were being asked to continue to pay rent when they are waiting months for, in some cases, vital maintenance works to be carried out.

He added that 'private landlords would not get away it.'

Cllr. Ruairi O'Murchu asked why Louth County Council would not be prepared to 'offset' works that tenants are prepared to pay for against rent, as private landlords would often do.

Ms. Lawlor said that this was 'not viable.'

She added that there was a 'worrying' situation emerging where tenants, who might be several thousand euros in arrears in their rent, approached the council saying they were prepared to pay €700 for works to be done.

The Housing officer said that if the tenant had €700 available they should be paying it off their rent arrears.

Cllr Emma Coffey agreed, adding that tenants also had obligations there was 'no way the local authority could consider a rebate on rent' if a tenant was thousands of euro in arrears.

She it was better to find viable solutions.

Ms. Lawlor pointed that the local authority had carried out a lot of work on addressing the arrears issue.

She explained that the assessments had been completed, and a lot of tenants were in repayment schemes.

The Housing Officer added that a lot of the work will be planned maintenance the local authority are hoping to do, which was aimed at addressing problems before they arose.

The Argus