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22/10/2021

Government bosses told to "wake the hell up" amid fears Longford to be omitted from State's affordable housing plan

Dozens of Longford families face being caught in rental trap if county is not included in plan, meeting hears

150 new social and affordable homes planned for Naas under new housing body

Longford's eligibility for inclusion in the State's Housing for All plan has been called into question

Longford looks set miss out on being included in a State backed affordable housing rollout after council bosses conceded this afternoon they don't "see anything" in the scheme to address the county's house building needs going forward.

Director of Services John Brannigan expressed his fears concerning the Government's well documented Housing for All plan at a meeting of Longford Municipal District this afternoon.

The document which was published earlier this month aims to build 90,000 social houses, 36,000 affordable homes, around 18,000 cost rental homes, and 157,000 private ownership and private rental homes by 2030.

However, Mr Brannigan told councillors written correspondence received by his own department earlier today returned "not very encouraging" insights as to where Longford fitted into the Government's €4billion annual plan.

He said Department of Housing officials had devised seven criteria for counties, one of which Mr Brannigan said Longford would "fail on immediately".

He said: "It uses data from the Central Statistics Office but it doesn't appreciate the cost of new house construction.

"The affordable scheme needs to be referred to as affordable new housing. You can't look at stock that is currently out there on the market because there is no new stock out there in Longford, Leitrim or Cavan. The smaller counties the scheme would not be applicable to."

Mr Brannigan said he believed only 14 counties nationwide would meet the terms set down in the plan, leaving Longford to be one of 12 locations to miss out.

"This (need for affordable housing) has come up at every SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) meeting and nearly every council meeting since I joined Longford (County Council) six years ago," he said.

"We have been beating that drum with the department of the need for affordable housing (in Longford) but unfortunately it's not being reflected.

"We appreciate the department have limited funding and not every scheme is going to every individual but there needs to be some form of affordable new housing construction in the county.

"I have been getting the message for the last six years and very regrettably I don't see anything in the scheme that is currently framed which will suit Longford."

Fine Gael Cllr Peggy Nolan said those cautionary soundings represented "very disturbing" news for dozens of families across the county who have been effectively left in a rental trap and unable to save for a mortgage of their own.

"I know of at least 12 couples who are really living on the margins to try and save on a weekly basis to have a deposit for when affordable housing becomes available," she said.

"Do they not understand that Longford has already been successful with a number of affordable housing schemes, one of which I am living in myself?

"It's not rocket science, it's not reinventing the wheel, it's something which has been done and has been successful. Why again are 14 counties almost assured in the document that was released and Longford is left high and dry. It can't be allowed to happen."

Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock followed suit and called on local TDs and senators to "wake the hell up" in order to ensure Longford is included in the State's universal housing blueprint.

"There are so many people caught in the trap of earning marginally too much to get social housing supports and not earning enough to obtain a conventional mortgage."

"They are trapped in a rental nightmare. The mind boggles as to what is going on in Leinster House."

Cllr Warnock said concerns over Longford's omission from a State-wide affordable housing scheme was indicative of ever increasing centralisation.

"The wrong decisions are being taken centrally and are impacting on well meaning and well knowledgeable local authorities that cannot provide the absolute facilities for the people we represent simply because of blockages up in Leinster House," he stormed.

"To me it's social engineering to the extreme. We are not providing for the hard working, decent people of this county who are going out on a daily basis, trying to make ends meet and bring up young families and yet being choked by rent. It actually angers me to the pit of my stomach."

For more on this story, see next week's Longford Leader.

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