There have been widespread cuts to Donegal County Council’s housing budget which will affect those on waiting lists, members of the Donegal Electoral Area Committee have been told.
Area Housing Manager Bridie McBrearty told the monthly meeting last Thursday: “Whether we like it or not, housing policy has changed dramatically. It’s a whole different mindset for us and for our applicants.”
She advised members that there will be no further capital funding for Specific Instance houses for the foreseeable future. Two applicants, whose houses were ready to go to tender, will be advised of the situation and asked whether they want to be considered for an alternative form of support. She said that, if funding became available next year, it was hoped that those two applicants would be given priority.
Cllr. Brendan Byrne noted that anyone looking for a specific instance house would “be intent on staying in a particular locale” and asked whether that preference could be prioritised. Ms McBrearty explained that applicants can specify up to three preferred locations, but they should be aware that if they are offered accommodation in one of those locations and refuse it, “there could be problems”.
Cllr. Byrne said it was his opinion that “Leasing is the only show in town now” and this would mean most housing would now be available in towns. He queried: “What strategy have we for people in rural areas, as I’m concerned we won’t be able to source houses for them through leasing. I’m worried that we will just be condemning them to stagnation, and end up having no real housing programme, through no fault of our own.”
Ms McBrearty said there would be a meeting at the end of this month to review policy and address such concerns. She added: “We also need to be more proactive and see what’s out there. The driver, though, is, of course, demand.”
She told members that the council would “not be accepting applications for Specific Instance Housing for the foreseeable future.”
She also informed members that the Affordable Housing Scheme has been discontinued as from last month and that she expected to receive confirmation this week that the Shared Ownership Scheme will also be discontinued.
Ms McBreaty pointed out that the new Framework of Housing Policy that was now coming into effect will result in significant changes. “Now it is the view that it is quite acceptable to live in rented accommodation if you can afford to pay the rent. Also, Housing Policy now doesn’t specify that you should own your house, it is enough that you have suitable accommodation in the area in which you want to live. This is a major change.”
Cllr. Barry O’Neill said there is “a huge problem in Ballyshannon with more than 120 people on the social housing list” and “absolutely no options for them”. He asked that a proposed scheme to build 30 houses at Portnason, which was originally rejected by the Department for being “too far from the centre” be looked at again as a matter of urgency, possibly in conjunction with one of the housing agencies.
Cllr. Mick McMahon said there was also a problem in Bundoran and urged the council to look at what could be done with unfinished estates. “These houses can be bought and should be bought. It’s the best opportunity in 30 years. I’m amazed there’s 2,500 on the list: it’s a disgrace.”
Ms McBrearty said there are currently 78 people on the housing list in Bundoran and that this was the responsibility of Bundoran Town Council.
She confirmed that t here is a plan for unfinished estates. “They have all been investigated and set into categories. Money will be allocated on the basis of where there is the greatest risk to the people already there. That money is being spent.”