AFTER almost a year of sitting empty in the midst of a severe housing crisis, Wexford County Council has confirmed that the seven brand new houses at Airhill, Belvedere Road, will now finally be assigned to families from the housing list.
The announcement comes after a third round of mediation with traveller families currently living on an illegal halting site at park, seemingly proved unsuccessful. The council had been hoping to move the families from the halting site into the Belvedere houses “on a temporary basis” while a custom made group housing scheme was constructed for them in line with the Traveller Accommodation Programme.
There was some dispute over the definition of “temporary” and some other conditions the local authority wished to put in place, leading to the appointment of a mediator to aid discussions. However, these discussions have now concluded with Mr Michael Drea from the Housing Department stating that although the meetings were “productive and worthwhile”, “it is now my intention to reallocate the properties at Airhill to other housing applicants and I have asked the Allocations Officer to proceed on that basis”.
In recent months, Sinn Féin councillor Tom Forde has been pushing for a resolution to the issue and he’s happy to see an end in sight.
“I'm very happy that these properties are finally being allocated to families who are very much in need of housing,” he said. “We are in the midst of a housing crisis where many are struggling to pay rents to private landlords and many are without a secure place to call home, sofa surfing and relying on the good will of friends and extended family members.
“I hope we don’t see a situation arise again in Wexford where we have newly built houses empty for such a long period. I made the allocation of these properties a priority for me and I'm glad we will have families occupying them soon.”
Similarly, Independent councillor Leonard Kelly was relieved to see an end to what he called a “farcical” situation.
"I’m happy that the farcical situation of seven new council laying empty for almost a year in our town, while so many are dealing with a housing crisis, seems to be reaching a conclusion,” he said. “But there must be leanings from this, and I don’t ever wish to see a similar occurrence happening again.”
Meanwhile, it appears that the traveller families that were at the centre of the discussions will continue to live on the halting site at Park for the time being, however, it is believed that Wexford County Council is currently considering sites to progress a group housing scheme.
“I know that families and young children are currently living in very difficult circumstances,” Cllr Forde said. “I'm glad that officials of Wexford County Council are engaging in a meaningful way to provide adequate accommodation for those in need. I have spoken with members of the family and they are happy with how the process is going.
“I would be keen to stress that they never asked for, nor wanted the houses at belvedere and were very keen to see them allocated to other families whom they might be deemed suitable for.”
The phones of local councillors have been hopping since the news on the houses broke, with families desperate to secure accommodation seeking to register their interest. However, the decision on who will be allocated the Belvedere houses rests firmly with the council’s Allocations Officer.