Cllr Gerry Warnock
Housing minister Eoghan Murphy is on collision course with local politicians concerning the county’s “overabundance” of social housing.
The Fine Gael Dublin TD’s drive to swell the country’s social housing stock in a bid to ease Ireland’s homelessness crisis has come in for criticism at a local level.
At the head of that queue this week was Cllr Gerry Warnock, who championed calls for at least 60 per cent of future turnkey housing developments in the county purchased by the Council to be offered up as affordable housing to middle income earners.
And, rather than take issue with Mr Murphy or his Junior Minister of State Damien English, the Independent Cllr hit out at what he branded as the “faceless bureaucrats” behind the measures.
“The same thing happened in the Celtic Tiger when we had an overabundance of housing that wasn’t needed,” he said.
“Longford has 55 per cent more social housing than the national average and yet you have guys in a national department devising these policies.
“Do we have a housing need in Longford? We do, for those people who don’t qualify for housing supports. We don’t need to be adding to a stock that could become a liability for us for years to come.”
Fine Gael Cllr Peggy Nolan was quick to endorse the concerns made by her non party opposite number.
She said evidence of how the present housing system was letting down young families could be seen in her recent experience of one couple who, despite paying €900 a month for rent, were deemed ineligible for financial support because their combined income of €32,000 fell outside the required €28,000 per year threshold.
Fianna Fáil general election candidate Cllr Joe Flaherty laid the blame squarely at the door of the Government, branding the current marketplace for young couples as “dysfunctional”.
In claiming how €3m was being paid out to over 600 landlords on various housing support schemes headed by the likes of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Cllr Flaherty said the issues facing rural counties like Longford were stark.
“Really, what we need is more affordable housing but we (Council) can’t walk away from our responsibilities as a provider of social housing,” he said.
They were comments which drew a sharp riposte from Independent Cllr Mark Casey who sarcastically asked the Fianna Fáil local representative if he and his party were contemplating resurrecting the so-called ‘Galway tent’ for construction developers.
Cllr Paraic Brady adopted a different tone, saying it was crucial did not become a “social hub”, saying the most opportune way to build communities was via an equal mix of social, affordable and private housing.