Longford County Council has more than 1,900 social housing units on its books, it emerged at last week’s meeting of Longford Municipal District.
Cllr Gerry Warnock said the numbers underlined the huge task confronting local authority chiefs in the wake of the Government’s recently announced €3.8bn social housing programme.
“People are coming to Longford to avail of social housing and we haven’t got the availability of employment here to justify any more building of houses,” he said.
It’s understood the figure, along with other issues surrounding Longford’s social housing network, was discussed at a recent meeting which was held in camera (without the press).
Other topics up for discussion included possible regeneration plans for the county, one of which was debated at considerable length at last week’s Municipal District meeting.
That centred largely on concerns in the greater Ardnacassa area of town where up to 30 properties have fallen foul to vandalism.
A leading proponent of the regeneration model similar to that undertaken in Limerick, Cllr Warnock said the plan would become his “pet project” when he takes over as Council Cathaoirleach later this month.
“We don’t need to be buiding any more units,” he added.
“What we as a county need to be doing is going into these estates such as MacEoin Park, Paraic Colum Heights, to renovate these houses and allocate them to tenants.”
The large oversupply might also explain why Longford has been given €500,000 to build three additional houses, the lowest allocation across all 31 local authorities.
Last week, a separate provision of €284,641 was handed to local authority chiefs to bring some of those 1,900 vacant units back into use.
Both Fine Gael TDs James Bannon and Gabrielle McFadden welcomed the announcement as the Government presses ahead with its attempts to address Ireland’s housing crisis.
Cllr Warnock, though, was keen to stress the importance of ensuring the mistakes of the pre-Celtic Tiger era were not repeated.
“The important thing is that we learn from it,” he said.
“It will be a long road but regeneration, I fundamentally believe, is the way forward.
“It’s a must and an absolute necessity for the future development of Longford town and county.”