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.”

Louth SF at National Homeless Protest

Louth Sinn Féin Councillors Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined a huge Sinn Féin contingent in Dublin on Saturday afternoon to support the National Homeless and Housing Coalition’s (NHHC) mass housing protest.

The national day of action, organised by the NHHC, was supported by organisations such as Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communites, along with a number of activist and trade union groups, actors, musicians and political parties – including Sinn Féin.

Saturday’s protest saw people come out in their thousands to demonstrate against record homelessness figures and the fact our country is facing a national housing emergency.

Speaking after the protest Cllr Joanna Byrne and Chairperson of Louth County Council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee said:

“A mobilisation of this size has to send a clear message to the government to make housing a right, not a privilege. The latest figures show that there are nearly 10,000 people in this country that are homeless, including 3,755 children. Month by month these figures are rising, it is gone beyond frightening at this stage and these people are the reason we are here today, these are the people we are standing in solidarity with today. This needs to be recognised as a national emergency and dealt with accordingly. The government need to increase investment in homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment and provide more protection for tenants at risk of homelessness to even try and get a handle on this crisis.”

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, Sinn Féin’s General Election candidate for Louth stated that “until there is a change in government policy this crisis will continue to get worse. The government’s over-reliance on the private rental sector to meet social housing needs, combined with rising rents and no rent certainty has played a major part in this crisis, this needs to change. Focus needs to be on building social and affordable homes, mixed-tenure public housing estates on public lands, funded by central government and built by local authorities.”

Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald, along with the parties spokesperson on Housing Eoin O’Broin behind the banner leading the Sinn Féin section of the protest.

Elected Reps and activists from all around the country followed behind making the huge Sinn Féin presence felt and were the largest Political Party supporting the event.

 

 

Cllr Joanna Byrne Repeats Calls for Plastic Bring Banks

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne reported “Monday night’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting saw the Chief Executive of Louth County Council Joan Martin announce to the members that she is immediately suspending charging for parking in Drogheda pending the adoption of new Bye Laws, and the financial implications of this would be to the tune of a loss in €300,000 in revenue at a minimum.

“On a positive note though, the CEO assured the members that she had been able to identify a number of sources to meet the sum involved and would be bringing proposals to the full council in three weeks time to meet the shortfall,therefore avoiding any cuts to the 2018 Budget.”

Joanna Byne said “This 300,000 was identified in the short few hours between the management team receiving legal advice on the Bye Laws on Monday morning and the meeting at teatime on Monday evening.

“The question now needs to be asked, how could such a substantial sum of money be identified in such a short period of time?

Bring Banks overflowing with plastic bottles 1 week after the decision

 

“November 2017’s budget meeting nearly saw the entire Council dissolved over major dissatisfaction amongst the members with many things, cuts in services without consultation and in particular, the collection of Plastics from Bring Banks was a major bone of contention. The cut in this particular service was in my view, always a cost-cutting measure.

“Despite all councillors voting and unanimously backing my Emergency Motion back in July to restore this service, worth €136k per annum, and several lobby attempts for the same in the period since then, this has not happened.

“I have written directly to the Chief Executive of Louth County Council today, asking that if she can pluck €300,000 from the sky to cover the costs of an administrative error then she must pluck another €136,000 from the same place to restore this vital service and stop defying the will of the elected representatives, and indeed the public of this county.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Lets Work Together to bring Rough Sleeper Count to Zero

At Monday’s meeting of the Drogheda Municipal District, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne expressed her shock at the results of this years Rough Sleeper Count.

This count took place unannounced by Louth County Council at 2.30am on Wednesday 15th November in both Dundalk and Drogheda and no persons were found to be sleeping rough.

Following Cllr Byrne raising this issue at the start of the meeting and asking questions regarding the zero count, which sparked wide debate, Senior Executive Officer Aoife Lawlor confirmed to the meeting that she herself had participated in this Rough Sleeper count and she could categorically say that there was not one person sleeping rough on these streets between the hours of 2.30am and 5.30am.

Rough Sleepers in Drogheda earlier this year

Cllr Byrne says ” To be honest I am shocked at this result returning at a count of zero, most people in this room knows of somebody somewhere sleeping rough in this town, a small number of people it may be, but is still a number.

“My understanding of this rough sleeper count taking place in the first place is to get a clear assessment of the problem, understand the magnitude of it, and allow the local authority to make provisions to provide effective and safe accommodation to these people to help deal with the issue.

“A zero count on the night, in my view, does not portray a clear image of the situation.”

Cllr Byrne stressed that whilst she was shocked by the result she did not doubt the merits of it, but made the suggestion that perhaps the local authority should liaise with the public reps in each area in advance of future rough sleeper counts to be aware of the hotspots known to the members and to include them on their route going forward.

“Let us all share our knowledge and work together to try bring that number down from the handful it probably is, to a realistic zero.

Drogheda SF Urge Public to Attend Joint Policing Committee Meeting

Drogheda SF Cllrs Kenneth Flood, Joanna Byrne & David Saurin

The 2017 Joint Policing Committee (JPC) Public Meeting date has been confirmed for 7.30pm on the 9th of October in The Westcourt Hotel, Drogheda.

Chairperson of the South Louth Joint Policing Committee Kenneth Flood said “I would encourage every Drogheda and South Louth resident to come along to the public JPC meeting. It is a vitally important meeting as it gives the people of Drogheda and South Louth the opportunity to put their questions, queries and worries regarding crime and policing to their elected representatives, the local authorities and the Gardaí. There will be informative presentations on the night, including one on crime prevention that would be very helpful to all residents.”
Cllr. David Saurin said “There have been well documented and highlighted cases of ongoing anti-social behaviour in several areas of Drogheda this year. Not least among them is in the Rathmullen Park area where new bollards have been erected to counteract the joy riding that was happening there. I want to welcome the new bollards but I would also like anyone affected by anti-social behavior to come to this meeting to hear about neighbourhood watch and other initiatives. We will only get on top of crime when the residents, local authorities and Garda all work together to combat it.”
Cllr. Joanna Byrne said “The JPC deals with all crime including headline crime cases like burglary and drug offences but it also deals with the crimes that affect all of us like illegal dumping. We have done a huge amount of work to combat dumping that is plaguing certain areas of our town and countryside but more is needed. If you feel like this issue, or any other has affected you, please come along on the night.”
Finally, Cllr. Flood said “If you wish to have a question answered on the night, please forward it to me in advance so we can assure that the answers are prepared and available.”