Monday 19 March 2018

Special meeting to discuss housing issues

A special meeting of Wicklow County Council was held on Monday to discuss the local authority housing stock and the lack of maintenance to deal with damp and mould issues.

Councillors were at pains to express their admiration for the Council Housing Department and instead criticised the Government for a lack of funding to maintain local authority houses.

Praise was also heaped on Cllr John Snell, Chair of the Housing SPC.

Cllr Nicola Lawless complained that some of Wicklow's housing stock was damp and mould ridden and more Department funding was crucially needed.

She also felt that local authorities should be included as part of the Housing Payment Scheme (HAP), which is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need.

'Minister Simon Coveney announced a repair and leasing scheme worth €32 million but in the same breath says local authorities have enough funding when everyone knows we don't get enough funding,' said Cllr Lawless.

Cllr Michael O'Connor rejected outright the notion that tenants might be responsible for the build up of mould and dampness in their homes.

'We are told the problem lay with tenants and the way they operated within their homes. Mould causes illness among tenants, especially young children. I'm not passing the blame on to anyone but the evidence is out there not to support the connection that it is down to the tenants themselves.'

Senior Engineer, Declan Murnane, explained that only 20 or so houses out of over 4,500 had mould and damp problems.

Director of Services, Joe Lane, said the council had an onus to find a balance between getting new housing schemes going, getting people off the housing list and maintaining the existing housing stock.

Cllr Christopher Fox said many of the councillors complaining about the housing stock in Wicklow had voted against maintaining the Local Property Tax at its base rate, which would have resulted in the council losing out on €2.5 million.

'All councillors here would like the maintenance of our housing stock to be well funded. However, back in September people in this chamber proposed cutting our budget by €2.5 million. Those people are hypocrites in my mind.

'To maintain the base at 100 per cent was a very unpopular decision but it meant more money being available to put into maintaining our housing stock. I hate being lectured by people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.'

Cllr Shay Cullen was in agreement.

'If we didn't have that €2.5 million we would be in a much more difficult position. It can't be ignored that it was a difficult decision to make but it has provided much needed funding.'

Cllr John Snell outlined recent upgrade works which have taken place, consisting of 600 houses in all - 200 in Arklow, 200 in Bray and 200 in Wicklow.

€150,000 in funding provided central heating for over 30 houses.

Deputy John Brady and Deputy Pat Casey also addressed the meeting.

Deputy Casey said a main issue was how the Government calculated the Local Government Fund and he had received confirmation that the process would be reviewed, as well as the methodology of calculation used.

Wicklow People