Review of income thresholds for social housing long overdue – Cllr Joanna Byrne

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has successfully passed a motion at Louth County Council’s September meeting calling on the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, to review the income eligibility for social housing supports.

Speaking on her motion Cllr Byrne said “there hasn’t been a been review on these thresholds since 2011 nor has there been any increase over the years with inflation.”

Cllr Byrne went on to state that in her home town of Drogheda “there are major imbalances with some parts of the town in Co.Louth while other parts are in Co.Meath, both of which fall into two different bands of eligibility. Those in Meath are allowed to earn much more money and still be eligible for social housing supports and join the local authorities housing lists while those living in Louth are penalised with a lower threshold.”

Cllr Byrne hit out at the lack of equality for Drogheda citizens.

 

“Louth is Band 2 whose maximum net threshold for a single peron is €30k, and for a family extends to 36k. Meath however is banded with the big cities which include Dublin and Cork in Band 1 whose maximum net threshold begins at 35k for a single person and extends to 42k for a family.​” 

 

“The Department of Housing initiated a review of these thresholds over two years ago. I want the Minister to stop dragging his feet, conclude the report and publish its findings along with any recommendations made by the Housing Agency in the process of the review.”

 

Correspondence of the motion will now be sent to the Minister, The Department of Housing and the Oireachtas Committee on Housing for consideration.

Cllr David Saurin: Sum of money for Maintenance is ‘disappointing’

“Disappointing and frustrating” was how Councillor David Saurin described the announcement at last Monday night’s Drogheda Borough Council meeting, that officials from Louth County Council has set aside “a small amount of money” for housing maintenance priority work from Internal Capital Receipts.

Cllr Saurin said “I asked the officials how much money would be made available for housing maintenance priority work and they continuously refused to give the exact figure other than to stress it was a small sum of money. When I asked if the sum of money would be sufficient to cover all existing and any future priority maintenance requests, again no clear answer was forthcoming and officials were unable to guarantee that we wouldn’t  be in the same situation at the next monthly meeting in regards to lack of funds.”

“When I then asked what type of maintenance works would be considered a priority, again I failed to receive a definitive answer. I told the Council that this situation is totally unacceptable and many tenants were becoming very annoyed and angry at being unable to access necessary and essential maintenance to their homes.”

“I would discourage any residents who may be considering withholding their rent as a form of protest and ask them to continue to pay their rent and pursue their maintenance requests with the Council in the usual way.”

 

Louth Sinn Féin supports Raise the Roof Protest

Louth TD Gerry Adams was joined by Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú and Cllr Anne Campbell on Wednesday outside the gates of Leinster House for the Raise the Roof rally to protest at government failure to delivery social and affordable housing.

In his remarks in the Dáil the former Sinn Féin leader criticised earlier comments from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing them as “dishonest”.

Speaking in the Dáil on the all-party motion Gerry Adams said:

“I want to commend all of those who took part in the Raise the Roof protest. It was a great demonstration. Those who assembled outside Leinster House were showing their anger at the government’s shameful attitude to almost 4,000 children in emergency accommodation. They were expressing their outrage against rents that people can’t afford. They were protesting against evictions and they were protesting against this government’s failed housing policy”.

Teachta Adams said:

“According to Daft.ie Louth has witnessed the greatest annual increase in rental costs. The July figures from the Department of Housing revealed that the number of adults homeless in the North-East region, including Louth, has remained unchanged since July of last year. Clearly the government’s housing strategy is not working.

This year, fewer social homes owned by local authorities and approved housing bodies will be delivered by the Government than last year.

The Minister for Housing and his colleagues constantly parrot the claim that their plan is the only plan – that there is no alternative. Yes. There is.

Sinn Féin’s housing plan in our Alternative Budget 2019 proposes the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters in tandem with a three-year emergency rent freeze.

Sinn Féin would also increase investment in social and affordable housing and tackling homelessness.

This is one of the many difference between Sinn Féin and this government. We believe that citizens have the right to a home. This government doesn’t believe this”.

Finally, Gerry Adams criticised an earlier attack on Sinn Féin by the Taoiseach. Teachta Adams said:

“The Taoiseach responded to a reasonable question from Teachta MacDonald on the government’s failed housing policy by attacking Sinn Féin’s refusal to stay in government in the North with a party which is denying citizens their rights.

The Taoiseach has a duty to uphold the rights of people in the North not to attack them. He also knows the efforts Sinn Féin have made and the reprehensible way the British government and the DUP have responded by refusing rights which he knows are being denied at this time.

He knows the disrespectful way they treat him and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This has nothing to do with the housing crisis, with the housing emergency in this state, but it is proof how this government responds in a dishonest way and this brings the Taoiseach’s office into disrepute and adds to the sense – and we saw this in the streets earlier on – that this government doesn’t really care about the homelessness crisis.

He also knows the disrespectful way they have treated the Irish government. So for him to respond in this dishonest way brings the office of Taoiseach into disrepute and adds to the sense that this government does not really care about the homeless crisis”.

Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú said: “There are thousands of households on the housing waiting list in Louth. Without the construction of significant numbers of quality, and affordable public housing many will languish on that list for years. We are in the midst of an unprecedented housing emergency. It is a crisis that has this Government has refused to confront.

The current housing crisis is entirely government made. Since the government published its ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ strategy homelessness has increased by 60%, child homelessness has increased by 77% and pensioner homelessness has increased by an unimaginable 80%. All of this has occurred despite the Ministers efforts to fiddle the homeless statistics, including an instruction to Louth County Council in May to exclude 100 homeless households”.

Adams urges Louth support for Raise the Roof

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has urged people from Louth to support the ‘Raise the Roof’ demonstration which will take place at Leinster House on 3rd October at 12.30pm.

Gerry Adams said;

“The Raise the Roof rally unites political parties, trade unions, student’s unions, housing agencies, community and campaign groups who share the same aim of demanding action from the Government on the housing crisis.

“In the past week we saw how Fianna Fáil TDs, including Declan Breathnach, sided with the Government and private developers against those in housing need.

“They failed to support the Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister Eoghan Murphy, a Minister who has presided over unprecedented levels of homelessness and who consistently refuses to regulate the rental market.

“Sinn Féin will publish its alternative Budget on Tuesday 2nd October.  In it we have budgeted for a 3 year rent freeze and tax relief for of 8.3% per annum for renters for 3 years.  This amounts to one month’s rent back per year.

“In Louth the average rent price was €905 in 2017.  This year it has risen to €983 per month.  People in Louth are on a treadmill of working simply to fill the coffers of their landlord.

“Our proposals are fully costed.  Sinn Féin has the political will to deliver for people who are struggling, people currently locked out of the housing market.

“I will be joined at Raise the Roof by Dundalk councillors Ruairí Ó Murchú and Anne Campbell.”

Cllr Pearse McGeough Criticises Substantial Shortfall in Housing Adaptation Grants

Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough has criticised the allocation in this year’s budget for Housing Adaption Grants (HAGs).

Speaking before the Louth County Council meeting this month, Cllr McGeough said “last year I asked the Council to apply for additional funding for this scheme and this year we are an even worse off situation.”

Cllr McGeough said “Each year a budget is allocated to this scheme which will adapt houses for the disabled or elderly. The applications for this particular Scheme are from some of the most vulnerable in our community. The scheme is intended to make daily life better for those who need a bit of extra help with their physical needs. This could be anything from a downstairs bathroom to a more major refurbishment of their home. These adaptations need to be carried out in a timely manner and that is just not happening because of the budgetary constraints being placed on it by Central Government.”

Cllr McGeough hit out at what he called the ‘wholly inadequate’ budget this year coming from Central Government. “Let’s do the math, we have 346 people waiting, some since since 2017, for adaptations to their homes, vulnerable people who have found themselves in a situation where they need a bit of work done to their homes to enable their basic daily needs to be met in a dignified way. This is going to cost a total of just over €3 million to clear the backlog and work on the current applications.  Central Government have allocated just under €1.2 million to the Scheme for this year and Louth County Council has to add just under €300k to that and that is all we are allowed.  We only have half the money we need.”

Cllr McGeough said he would be pressing the Council to seek additional funding for this vital Scheme. “If citizens are unable to remain in their own homes, this has the knock-on effect of a greater number of older people seeking nursing home places and they aren’t available either. If I was more cynical I would think the Government was biding its time in the hope some of these citizens would pass away and they wouldn’t need to spend the money. People deserve better.”