West Limerick on ‘the hind tit’ for housing, say councillors

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Email:

normap@limerickleader.ie

Cllr Jerome Scanlan

Cllr Jerome Scanlan

WEST Limerick is “on the hind tit” when it comes to the housing section of Limerick City and County Council, Fine Gael’s Cllr Jerome Scanlan has claimed.

Local knowledge is extremely important when it comes to housing, he argued, but “west of Adare appears to be an issue” for the people in City Hall. And he cited the example of a one-bedroom house allocated to a family of four in a West Limerick village.

“If we had control of our own affairs, that wouldn’t have happened,” he said, supporting the call for a housing section to deal with local housing issues to be set up in Newcastle West.

In the old county council, the housing section was the number one department, Cllr Scanlan argued.

“They knew when and where and they knew when people were pulling the wool over them,” he continued. But now, he said, there was an “over-concentration on the city and the west is “gone on the hind tit as far as people in this section are concerned”.

Cllr Liam Galvin FG was also critical, citing a family who had been allocated a house six months ago but he reckoned it would be another three before they got to occupy it. He also cited empty houses in Hillside Drive and empty apartments in Mountmahon, Abbeyfeale.

“This is what our housing section is doing,” he said. “It is not functioning in county Limerick. It is a disaster for us.”

Having blocked-up houses was adding to anti-social behaviour, he added.

Cllr John Sheahan FG believed that bundling seven or eight empty houses together before the of work preparing them for new tenants could be done was part of the problem.

And he suggested that a pilot scheme be explored where the Newcastle West office would look after its own voids and get local contractors to carry out the works needed. He also asked why there wasn’t a “rolling maul” of maintenance, given that an additional €1m had been put into the housing budget this year.

Cllr Francis Foley FF said there were plenty builders able and willing to tackle the work and he agreed with the idea of getting “local guys to sort out local problems.”

“I don’t see why we have to go to a construction engineer to tell us a floor is gone. To me, that is another layer of bureaucracy and that should be cut out.”

Replying to councillors, senior executive engineer Robert Gallagher said housing maintenance was done on a reactive basis. “We have an ageing housing stock and clearly there are issues in maintaining those houses,” he said, pointing out that some 12,500 calls on maintenance had been received last year.

“Voids funding is a huge problem,” he continued, with between €70-80,000 needed to bring some houses back up to standard. 

However, both he and director of services Gordon Daly pointed out that Newcastle West now had its own dedicated housing engineer and were confident that this would improve matters. A housing section in Newcastle West would lead to duplication, they warned. 

“We want the same thing as you,” Mr Daly said. “We want a quick turn-around.”

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the council was adding up to 90 houses a year to its stock of 5,500 through purchase and these houses were not necessarily in turn-key condition.

“I think there still is an issue of capacity in the building and construction sector,” he added. “If there are contractors out there, by all means send their details.”