Ó Murchú: Land Bank interest payments strangling Louth County Council finances

“The land banks held by Louth County Council need to be part of any housing solution by central government”, says Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú.

“Sinn Féin does not think much of Eoghan Murphy’s deflective proposals to strip County Councils of powers to deal with emergency accommodation and our planned motion of no confidence in him is well highlighted.

“The government’s idea of a Land Development Agency would only be worthwhile if  adequately resourced and operating greater, more realistic home building targets.

“Many of these land banks were bought by Louth County Council for building social and affordable housing, as was required by the government of the time. Not only are they not being built on but to date Louth County Council’s finances are being strangled by paying interest on loans on these lands. Next year the cost of this will be an estimated €1.5 million on loans of about €60 million.”

Cllr Ó Murchú described the situation as ‘ludicrous’.

Ruairi at a recent Housing Presentation by Eoin Ó Broin

“We have a responsibility to the people of Louth to ensure their budgets are being used properly and appropriately. People are entitled to value for money and it’s unjustifiable to have over €1.5 million taken out of your budget before you even start and have nothing to show for it.”

Louth County Council is also facing the daunting prospect at the end of the year of having to deal with the capital element of some of these loans.

Some of these land banks were purchased at the height of the boom and are worth a lot less now making it unviable for the land to be sold off according to Louth County Council. Councillors were told at the recent Louth County Council budget meeting that one of the last batches of land bought by LCC were purchased for €1.3 million per acre. These same lands would be lucky to fetch €400,000 per acre in today’s market leaving LCC ‘on the hook’ for the outstanding debt. LCC officials stated they have used this situation to force the issue with Central Government and will continue to make representations to them.

The government in tandem with Louth County Council needs to assess which lands are most suitable for necessary home building and to put plans in operation. If lands are not economically or any other way viable for housing, they should be looked at from a point of view of IDA development or some other solution

Either way, they have been bought by the state and the state needs to find an answer rather than compounding Louth County Council’s problem with underfunding from Central government.

Cllr Ó Murchú said “Across this state we have about 10,000 people in emergency homeless accommodation, tens of thousands of households on the housing waiting list and a huge level of tenants on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) at a huge cost to the state. We have a huge cohort paying exorbitant rents and many unable to purchase their own homes.”

Sinn Féin is enthusiastically supporting the ICTU led ‘Raise the Roof: Homes for All’ rally which will take place outside the Dáil on October 3rd at 12.30pm.

A number of elected reps and activists travelled to Carrickmacross to hear Eoin O’Broin highlight this rally and to hear Sinn Féin proposals to address the public housing problem in this state.

Housing crisis in Louth: Adams TD

Commenting on the recent homeless figures Gerry Adams TD pointed out that; “There are now more citizens homeless in this state than the combined populations of Ardee, Castlebellingham, Dunleer, Jenkinstown and Tullyallen”.

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has challenged local TDs, irrespective of their party allegiance, to support Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in the Housing Minister Eoin Murphy when it comes before the Dáil in the next few weeks.

The Sinn Féin Louth TD said:

“The government’s housing policy, supported by Fianna Fáil, is failing the tens of thousands of households on the waiting list, the almost ten thousand men, women and children who are homeless, the many more who are paying exorbitant rents, and those who want to buy their own home.

Minister Murphy is out of touch with the needs of households who need a safe and secure roof over the heads.

While there has been a very slight drop in the number of homeless in Louth the government’s policies are failing to dent the housing crisis in this constituency and across the state. The number of homeless dropped by just two between June and July.

There are now more citizens homeless in this state than the combined populations of Ardee, Castlebellingham, Dunleer, Jenkinstown and Tullyallen.

This is an outrageous situation. Consequently, Sinn Féin will be tabling a motion of no confidence in Minister Murphy in the next few weeks. We are seeking support from across the political spectrum.

I am calling on all local TDs to place the housing needs of citizens first and to join with Sinn Féin in demanding that Minister Murphy goes and the government adopt effective and urgent policies to end the housing crisis. My appeal is especially directed at Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach whose party’s support for the government is keeping it in power. Fianna Fáil is complicit in this housing crisis. Fianna Fáil TDs have the power to demand that the government change its disastrous housing policy but thus far they have refused. The Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Minister presents Teachta Breathnach and others with an opportunity to put the people first.”

 

Daft report confirms that Government has no plan, no clue – Munster

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster, has said that the latest Daft report has only confirmed that which we all knew; “rents have spiralled out of control and show no signs of slowing down”.

Teachta Munster said that it was clear that the meagre government efforts to date have had no impact and it was time for Minister Eoghan Murphy and the government to take strong, definitive action to address the housing situation which has descended far past crisis point.

Rents have risen 12.4% in a year, with the average rent now standing at €1,304. Limerick City and Waterford city has seen rises of 20% since last year.

The Louth and East Meath TD said:

“The Government’s reliance on the private sector to solve the housing crisis and the Minister’s light touch philosophy has had no impact.

“The Rent Pressure Zones were unambitious to begin with and demonstrated the reluctance of Fine Gael to interfere with a market that is dysfunctional at best, fundamentally broken at worst. Similarly, the anaemic level of construction of social and affordable housing is simply driving people towards that private sector market, driving up rents for all.

“Rent certainty, the Focus Ireland amendment that would keep families in their homes, an ambitious and necessary investment in social and affordable housing; these are the policy objectives that the government would be better served in pursuing. Media appearances telling the people that it’s not as bad as it looks are insulting and an embarrassing indication that the government truly doesn’t know how bad the housing emergency has become.

“It is clear that this government, backed to the hilt by their partners in Fianna Fáil, is doing more harm than good when it comes to the housing crisis. They have no plan and it seems they haven’t a clue either.”

Cllr Anne Campbell: Tenants Waiting For Maintenance

Serious delays to maintenance and repair works on houses owned by Louth County Council is causing worry and stress for tenants, according to a Dundalk councillor.

Sinn Fein’s Anne Campbell says “there has been a massive slow-down in getting maintenance and repairs completed with council officials saying that all works are subject to the maintenance budget in the second half of the year.”

Cllr Campbell raised the issue at the last meeting of Louth County Council. “According to the figures,  maintenance requests have increased by 20% in two years, I also noted that work had been approved at tenants’ homes, but had not been done because of cost. I asked director of housing, Joe McGuinness, if there was a problem with money.”

In response, Mr McGuinness said: ‘There are issues with a significant number of housing maintenance requests and there are budgetary pressures. They are being prioritised and some will be done’.

Cllr. Campbell said: “I have noticed that the delays between maintenance or repair requests going in and the work getting done have been getting longer and longer since June. I have sought updates on behalf of a number of constituents and have been told that there are ‘budgetary pressures’ and each job is subject to the funding being available for it.”

“There are people who have come to me who have been waiting for months to get relatively small, but important, work done to their council houses and it’s just not happening. Indeed, there is currently no indication, in many of these cases, when the work may be carried out.”

Cllr Campbell pointed out that “Louth County Council has a responsibility to its tenants in the same way a private landlord has certain obligations to his/her tenants, including repairing and maintaining the structure of the property and maintaining the interior of the property to the standard it was at the start of the tenancy. We would not accept ‘budgetary pressures’ from a private landlord and we should not accept this reason from local authorities either.”

“This is causing a lot of stress and worry for people who are waiting to get work completed.”

Scandal of government failure to build social homes in Louth – Adams

Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the government’s plans for tackling the crisis in housing and homelessness as “woefully inadequate and incapable of providing the homes needed by the tens of thousands on the waiting list.”

Gerry Adams said:

“According to a report by Focus Ireland there were only 118 social housing units built in Louth in 2017. 25 of these were constructed by Louth County Council and 93 by approved housing bodies. At the same time there were 2,249 households designated as having a housing need. At this rate it would be almost 20 years before the last of those currently on the Louth list would be housed. Across the state there are tens of thousands of households on waiting lists that stand immune to an inadequate government housing strategy.

The cross party special Dáil Committee on Housing and Homelessness recommended that at least 10,000 units needed to be constructed by local authorities and approved housing bodies every year. This year the government plans to fund just 5,869 real social houses, This is down almost 500 on last year. We also know that only 780 social homes were built by local authorities 2017. At this rate there is little sign of hope for those on the waiting list in Louth.

The reality is that the government’s strategy is not working in Louth or across the state. The statistics are stark. Exactly two years ago when Rebuilding Ireland was launched by the government there were 6,525 people, including 2,348 children living in emergency accommodation. In May 2018 there were 9,846, including 3,826 children living in emergency accommodation. 

The government needs to go back to the drawing board. It must prioritise funding for local authorities who have a key role to play in ending the housing crisis.”