The need for an affordable housing scheme to be advanced in Longford has been underlined this week by a local man who is desperately hoping for government chiefs to fast-track the initiative
A Longford father of two has spoken of how the State's lackadaisical appproach in rolling out an affordable housing scheme could leave his family without a roof over their heads.
Ian Donoghue said the dearth of suitable accommodation in the county was more pertinent than ever before as he and his wife face the prospect of possibly being made homeless while at the same time happily await the birth of their third child.
“We are living in rented accommodation for 13 years and now our landlord is selling the property, yet there are only 11 properties to rent in the county of Longford with a price range of between €950 - €1500 a month and there are only five in the town between €1200-€1500,” he said.
Those crippling figures have forced Ian to take on a second job just to make ends meet at a time of unprecedented inflationary hikes and a cost of living crisis not seen for several decades.
Despite those efforts, his hopes of securing a lasting home have slowly ebbed away, something he contended was not helped by the way banks look upon young families look to get their foot on the housing ladder.
“A mortgage is out of the question as we have 2 kids and one on the way,” he said. “Lenders look at a child costing you €250 a month, so we will be on the rental market indefinitely going forward.”
It’s a financial dilemma which has caused untold stress to the Longford native, so much so that he has even considered undertaking a public protest to illustrate his predicament.
Having lobbied virtually every local politician who will listen, Ian said his last lingering hope was for a potentially game-changing affordable housing scheme to come on stream.
Under the scheme, local authorities provide an interest-free equity stake to buyers who qualify to make the homes more affordable.
The rules then stipulate that the applicant can use this three-and-a-half times income amount to qualify, as long as it does not exceed 85.5pc of the property’s value.
However, as revealed last year it emerged Longford looked set to miss out on being included in the scheme due to stringent criteria upon which counties are deemed eligible to qualify.
Those fears appeared to ease somewhat last April when Department of Housing bosses invited Longford Co Council to formally submit their proposals for an affordable housing scheme in Longford town.
But with the construction sector experiencing its first slump in over a year as soaring costs choke new projects across the commercial and residential sectors, those hopes have taken a significant setback.
Ian said it was his view Longford had, not for the first time, been overlooked by government chiefs.
“Affordable housing is the only way for families like us to get on the housing ladder but unfortunately the Government think Longford doesn’t need an affordable housing scheme,” he said.
“If they only sent someone from the housing department down to speak with families who are trying their hardest to get out of the rental market and onto the property ladder that will be a different story but once again this side of the N4 isn’t looked at like cities and bigger towns.”
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien has come under fire recently for failing to act on a report on social housing eligibility.
The current income eligibility limits, which were introduced in 2011, mean that to qualify for social housing the maximum amount a single person can earn is €25,000.
For married couples, combined income levels must not exceed €26,250 thereby effectively excluding applicants like Ian before an i or t has been crossed on a housing application form.
“Even if they (government) looked at the housing threshold for council housing where towns cannot get affordable housing as there is a massive number of houses in Longford owned by the council that are vacant,” he said.
“They could generate a lot of money from higher rents for working families who are willing to pay, which, I think, would be a great starting point for local authorities and the Government to seriously consider.”
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