Fall in private housing rents hits council waiting lists

Tenants are turning down the opportunity to move into council houses in Donegal because it’s almost as cheap for them to rent a private home in the current economic climate.

Tenants are turning down the opportunity to move into council houses in Donegal because it’s almost as cheap for them to rent a private home in the current economic climate.

A senior housing official within Donegal County Council says families, couples and single people who have applied for council housing, often end up choosing not to move in because the rent being charged by private landlords is continuing to fall in the recession.

It’s claimed potential council tenants are prepared to pay slightly more on their rent in order to have an address in a private residence as opposed to a council estate.

The claim was made at this week’s Stranorlar Electoral Area meeting of Donegal County Council during a debate on council housing stock. Patrick McLaughlin, a senior executive officer in housing, said the high number of vacant council houses, compared to the ever-increasing numbers on the housing waiting list, “just don’t add up”.

He said there is a feeling within the housing department that because there is so much vacant accomodation in the private sector, “below-par rents” are now available. “Those people that don’t really want to be living in a council estate are choosing instead to stay in private, rented accomodation,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said there have been 84 offers for council housing in the Stranorlar Electoral Area so far this year but only 26 tenants have taken up those offers. The council houses he added, “are perfectly good houses” and many of them are left in “pristine condition” but are still turned down.

Cllr. Patrick McGowan said the rising number of vacant council houses was way too much. “If anything was to cause flashing lights to go off, then this is it,” he said.

He voiced concern at the number of council houses that are now boarded up and said residents living beside vacant houses are having to put up with all sorts of problems because houses and gardens are not being properly kept. People are taking leading off roofs and stealing boilers from vacant property.

“It’s 60 houses and rising. It’s mad, totally unacceptable,” he added.