Cllr Joanna Byrne: Affordable Housing Schemes Needed

At May’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne had her motion successfully passed calling on the government to introduce affordable housing schemes for local authorities.

The motion read:

That this Louth County Council recognises that homes to rent and to purchase are becoming increasingly unaffordable and calls on government to;
Immediately introduce ambitious affordable rental and purchase housing schemes led by Local Authorities, and where appropriate, Approved Housing Bodies and Housing Co-operatives with clear annual targets for all local authorities;
and to design the Home Building Finance Ireland fund to prioritise loan finance to small and medium sized builders participating in Council led affordable housing schemes.

Cllr Byrne who is also the chairperson of Louth’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) said she tabled this motion because “I believe there is huge cohort of people falling through the cracks that firstly earn over the threshold to get onto the local authority social housing list and do not earn enough to qualify for a mortgage to buy any kind of substantial home.”

Speaking in the chamber on the day Cllr Byrne stated: “Under current government proposals, not one affordable home will be delivered in this state this year. Since taking office in 2011, Fine Gael have not delivered a single affordable rental or purchase home through any Government scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Action plan for Housing and Homelessness is no different, it too contains no targets and no clear funding stream for the delivery of affordable housing.”

Cllr Byrne said “the only way to ensure that affordable homes are delivered is to immediately introduce affordable schemes, led by Local Authorities, on public land. The Minister maintains that the private sector will deliver affordable homes via the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), but we have yet to see this materialise.

“I have major concerns as to where the current failing government policies are leaving massive numbers of people in this county, and that is the merits behind me tabling this motion. In my view there is an onus on us as representatives of the people of this County to put our names to this and push for it.”

Cllr Byrne welcomed having her motion passed unopposed, notification of this will now be sent directly to the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy.

 

HAP inspections must become a priority for the Local Authority

At April’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne extensively questioned the Director of Services for Housing on the level of inspections currently being carried out on rented dwelling funded through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

HAP is a social housing support that has replaced the old Rent Supplement for those with a long-term housing need who qualify for housing support.

Under the legislation, if the rental property has not been inspected in the previous 12 months prior to the commencement of the HAP contract, it has to be inspected within the following 8 months to ensure compliance with legislation and standards. With the latest figures showing that over two thousand people throughout Louth are availing of HAP, Cllr Byrne queried where the local authority are at with these inspections.

Cllr Joanna Byrne said “With 2062 people on HAP throughout this county, I want to ask the question as to where we are at with these inspections? There is a significant amount of money being spent on HAP and the question needs to be asked how many of these landlords are providing sub-standard accommodation? I have people coming to my clinic week in week out who are living in deplorable conditions – no heating, dampness, no ventilation, windows not opening, the list goes on. Some of these properties are in clear breach of Health and Safety regulations and are putting people’s health and lives at risk. This is not good enough for the people of our county and it is certainly not good enough for the children of our county!”

The national statistics for 2016 show that in that year only 7% of HAP dwellings were inspected and the government has set a target that by 2021 25% properties will be inspected, indicating that it could take up to 4 years for an inspection to take place. That length of time will no doubt increase as the amount of these dwellings increase, and Cllr Byrne who is chairperson of Louth’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee has called on Louth County Council to channel more resources into this area and make these inspections a priority.

The director told Cllr Byrne that all landlords have an obligation to comply with the Residential Tenancies Board’s accommodation standards in the first instance, however he did recognise there are many issues out there and assured Cllr Byrne that the housing department of Louth County Council do recognise the importance of these inspections and would endeavour to work through them.

Cllr Byrne concluded by saying ” With the lack of social and affordable housing , more and more people are being driven to the rental sector to meet their housing needs, if this is the case there is an onus on us as a local authority to ensure that we are not standing by and leaving families in sub-standard dwellings. I personally won’t be standing by, I will be pushing at any and every opportunity I get to ensure there is an increase on the level of inspections carried out, and following the inspections that the findings and recommendations of them are followed through.

“These inspections must become a priority, in doing so the health and safety of our constituents becomes a priority.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Comply with Housing Needs Assessment

Sinn Féin Councillor and Chairperson of The Housing Strategic Policy Committee Joanna Byrne is urging all applicant’s on Louth County Council’s housing waiting list to comply with the upcoming housing needs assessment due to be carried out by the Local Authority.

Louth County Council will write to applicants who were qualified on the social housing waiting list with Louth County Council prior to 21st April 2017.  Households that have been included on a Council Transfer List and those in accommodation provided under RAS or HAP will not be required to update their files and, therefore, will not receive any correspondence in this regard.

Housing list applicants who receive this letter will be asked to complete a form, provide documentary evidence of any changes in their circumstances and return this information to Louth County Council.  The information provided by each applicant will be reassessed under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 (as amended) taking into consideration the applicant’s eligibility and need.
The completed form and all relevant supporting documentation must be returned to Louth County Council before  close of business on Friday, 13th April 2018.
If you fail to return the completed form and all supporting documentation within the specified timeframe, your application for social housing support will be terminated.
Cllr Byrne said: “The last Housing Needs Assessment which took place in 2016 saw 1241 applicants cases closed, some due to change of circumstances but 752 of these were due to people NOT returning the forms. All their waiting time on the list gone, for not filling out a form. I am urging anyone and everyone who gets these forms to promptly return them along with any documentation required. Do not allow yourself end up in that position. I cannot stress enough how important this is.”
If you have any queries regarding completion of the form or the supporting documentation required, please contact Louth County Council on 1890 202 303 or email hau@louthcoco.ie

Cllr Anne Campbell Welcomes End to Ard Dealgan Nightmare

Sinn Féin Councillor Anne Campbell has welcomed the signing of a contract between Louth County Council and Tuath Housing Association which marks the beginning of new work to provide social housing in the complex on Quay Street.

Councillor Anne Campbell said “this marks a new beginning for the people of the Quay Street, Peter Street and Barrack Street areas. Dundalk Sinn Féin and former councillor Jennifer Green have campaigned on this issue for a number of years and at last we can look forward to an end to the nightmare.”

The Ard Dealgan complex which was abandoned in 2009 following health and safety concerns has been a magnet for anti-social activity in the form of drug dealing, parties into the night

Cllr Campbell inside Ard Dealgan

especially in the summertime and a regular number of fires taking place endangering the lives of the front line services that sometimes needed specialist equipment to reach the fire.

Councillor Campbell said “we can now look to the future. The residents in the surrounding areas don’t need to fear and dread the summertime coming this year, work should be well underway by then as it is expected that the 68 units should be completed by the end of 2019.”

“The residents will be taken from the housing list and a care-taker should be living on site. There will be 68 units in total on completion:

  • 46 x two bed homes
  • 10 x one bed homes
  • 7 x three bed apartments
  • 3 x two bed duplexes
  • 2 x four bed duplexes

This will provide a good mixture and I look forward to seeing people and families who have been waiting for years on the housing list, settled into their new homes by the end of next year.”

Councillor Campbell also gave an outline of the work involved. “The apartments will have a turnkey finish as they will be fully furnished with new electrical and plumbing works to the highest standard. There will also be landscaped gardens and around 70 underground car parking spaces.”

Cllr Campbell was also pleased that “the Council have given a commitment to improve the public road outside the new complex. That part of the road in Quay Street has become quite dangerous with the amount of pot-holes and cars can often be seen swerving around them and it can look like they are driving erratically.”

Cllr Anne Campbell also said “the council will allocate the housing mainly through the Choice Based Letting system and accommodation will be provided for those with disability or experiencing homelessness.”

In addressing the issue of anti-Social behavior “Tuath don’t anticipate any problems with anti-social behaviour at the new complex as they have experience of running large apartment buildings around the country and are confident that this one will be a place where people want to live.”

Delays in Affordable Housing Scheme is compounding housing crisis – Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Imelda Munster, has today called on the government to set up an Affordable Housing Scheme as a matter as a priority. The last government announced the scheme in Budget 2016, however it has yet to be set up.

“The state has completely reneged on its duties to provide secure and affordable housing. The homelessness crisis is a national emergency, a fact that the government has not recognised. More families and individuals than ever are homeless.”

“Young people and those on low and middle incomes cannot afford to buy homes. Meanwhile, the private rental sector is seriously under-regulated and only benefiting landlords as tenants are priced out of the market.”

“In my own constituency of Louth and East Meath housing waiting lists have spiralled, with many families waiting up to nine years for a house. There is a chronic shortage of affordable private rental accommodation and the government has yet to open the Affordable Housing Scheme, despite making a commitment to do so two years ago.”

“The government is paying lip service to the housing crisis. They need to fund a proper social housing programme, and to allow those who wish to purchase their own home to do so under an Affordable Housing Scheme rather than relying on the dysfunctional private rental market.”