Cllr Gerry Warnock
Cllr Gerry Warnock has called on Longford County Council to write to the Minister for Housing opposing the amended regulations brought into effect from February 1 changing the requirement for the duration of receipt of social housing support from one year to ten years.
Previously, tenants of local authority housing could, after one year, apply to purchase their council house at a discounted rate but the new regulation has increased that duration to ten years.
“I believe that this is a punitive and regressive measure that is contrary to the objectives of pathway one in the government’s own Housing for All Strategy,” said Cllr Warnock during his emergency motion at the recent council meeting.
“The clandestine nature of ramming this through over the Christmas holidays does not sit easy with me, nor does the lack of communication to the local representatives.
“This amendment needs to be revised as a matter of urgency to allow decent and valued members of our community who are currently tenants of local authorities a path towards homeownership within a reasonable time frame.”
The regulations were drafted up over the Christmas period, Cllr Warnock explained, and came into effect without the knowledge of many local authority members from February 1 of this year.
“I just think it was a punitive measure. It was a little bit slight of hand that it all occurred during the Christmas holidays and then hot on its heels when everyone came back, it was enacted and the trigger was pulled for the first of February,” he said.
“I didn’t know anything about this until I came across the case of a local couple - working normal jobs, living in their local authority house for the last four or five years. And they were an absolute model couple for a tenant purchase scheme application. To their dismay, when they went to submit their application, they were informed that it had increased from one year to ten years.
“I suppose from a critical point of view, the elected members should have been informed of this measure amendment to the legislation, not only by our national politicians but also internally here as well because it has a detrimental impact now on the future plans of a lot of people who try to aspire eventually towards home ownership through a tenant purchase scheme.
“So I want to thank all my colleagues for their support. I’m hoping we can press this on the minister to have a look at this and to allow even a little bit of discretion with the local authority to be able to adjudicate on a case by case basis.”
The motion was promptly backed by Cllr Peggy Nolan who said she has also had people express concern at this new obstacle.
“I’ve had people coming to me as well, devastated that they have to wait to purchase their houses,” she said.
“And again, they’re ordinary working class couples who would make ideal tenants for the council and it’s an awful shock.
“If you remember when this was brought in first, we had people who were made redundant, people who had life savings and they wanted to buy their houses and because they were on social welfare they were precluded as well, despite the fact that they lived in those houses all of their lives.
“They put their money into it and they wanted to leave something to their families. So this is another swipe. It’s a step too far.”
Cllr Colm Murray noted that the new regultions would “come as a shock” to a lot of the council members due to the way they were enacted and stated that it was “not a progressive step” but instead was “over complicating the system.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Paraic Brady highlighted that new council houses should be excluded from the purchase scheme due to the amount of money the council would lose if a house built for €240,000 was sold to a tenant living there for one year at a discounted price, but he too supported the motion.
“I would like to see the local authority gaining some level of rent on our new properties,” he said.
“But I certainly would be in support of people who have been in rented accommodation on a case to case basis that they would get the opportunity to purchase the house.”
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.