The cost of local authority housing rents in Co Longford is forcing more and more cash strapped tenants to look to the county’s private market, it has emerged.
According to Cllr Paul Connell, a steadily increasing stream of hard pressed leaseholders have been left with little or no option but to look elsewhere for their accomodation needs.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council, the Independent representative said such was the inordinate nature of housing rents in Co Longford, council tenants were able to secure savings of up to €100 a month when looking outside the local authority housing system.
Venting his fury at the council’s executive, Cllr Connell also claimed Longford was now the most expensive when compared to 32 other local authorities nationwide.
“We are the dearest council in the country for rent and therefore a lot of people are leaving us and going to the private sector where they are finding they can get rent of €80 to €100 less a month.
“We are going the wrong way. We want to be looking at our neighbouring counties and what they are doing because the private sector is winning over at the moment,” he said.
Cllr Connell added he first spoke on the issue last year, seeking written clarification from Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.
That request culminated in confirmation the Government had set its sights on implemening a national differential scheme, a move which County Manager Tim Caffrey revealed is expected to be rubber-stamped early next year.
“The differential rents scheme is included in new legislation and is currently being tested in six local authorities. My understanding is that when it comes up for implementation it will be a reserved function of the council to determine the bands for differential rents,” he said.
Appearing less than satisifed with the response coming from the council’s top table, Cllr Connell’s tone deteriorated further when Head of Finance, Barry Lynch confirmed there were an estimated 80 empty units on Longford County Council’s housing roster.
“ I am not saying you are misleading me or anything but I would venture to say that over the two local authorities we have a lot more than 80 empty houses,” he said.
Mr Lynch replied, saying the topic would remain on the council’s agenda, a response which prompted an even more vociferous outburst from Cllr Connell.
“It’s passing the buck again Barry because you probably weren’t prepared for the question. People are coming to me every day and they are simply not able to afford these rents. If you go out there and see for yourself the problems people are having on the ground, it is very serious,” he said.