'Renting homes won't solve the housing crisis'

Simon Brouder

The reliance on leasing as a way of coping with housing lists isn't working and Kerry County Council should switch its focus to building and buying homes.

That's according to Sinn Féin Councillor Toireasa Ferris who told Monday's monthly meeting of Kerry County Council that a new approach is needed to meet the county's growing housing needs.

During a debate on the council's financial statement for 2017, Cllr Ferris questioned why so much had been spent on leasing properties while relatively little had been spent actually acquiring properties.

She raised the issues of a 19-home development that has recently been sold in Tralee with a private buyer paying roughly €40,000 per unit for the development. Cllr Ferris questioned management why the council hadn't purchased the property which would suit use for council housing. "I guarantee that we'll end up paying exorbitant rent for these exact same properties in the next ten years," said Cllr Ferris.

"We're now renting properties that were on sale three of four years ago for €20,000 to €30,000 and which we were told then we couldn't afford," Cllr Ferris continued.

Cllr Ferris pressed management to deal with the escalating housing crisis by building more new homes and buying others that are suitable.

"Leasing is not a solution to the crisis," she said.

Kerry County Council CEO Moira Murrell said that in certain cases properties were either unsuitable or could not be purchased by the council due to various regulatory reasons.

""In such cases there are always reasons not to buy but I won't go into specifics," she said.

"We're not going to buy every house on the market," she added.

Ms Murrell added that the council is determined to build more housing.

"Every piece of land we have that we can develop will be developed," she said.

The Financial Statements issued by the council did not reveal a huge disparity in the amount spent on purchasing houses as opposed to leasing them.

According to the figures the council spent €8.3 million on house purchases while €10.2 million was used to rent properties under the RAS leasing programme for social housing.

Considerably less was spent on building with €4.9 million spent on building new schemes and single rural cottages. The €4.9 million figure also includes the cost of any house extensions carried out by the council.

An additional €1.47 million was provided by the council to various voluntary housing bodies to assist in their work.