independent

Monday 23 April 2018

Council to address plight of squeezed middle workers amid housing crisis

Wexford County Council plans to help the 'squeezed middle income' earners of Wexford through a new initiative.

CEO Tom Enright said the council needs to be careful not to rush into building council estates of more than 50 houses. In welcoming the recent announcement of national funding for housing, Mr Enright said a submission was made by the council the previous Wednesday.

He said there has been a lot of focus, rightly, on homelessness in recent weeks, but said there is another issue where young people - many of whom live in Wexford - who do not qualify for social housing and can't get bank finance for a mortgage as they are not earning enough.

'We are looking at initiatives to help working people who are renting and who are finding the cost of their rent going up and up. This will free up a lot of rental housing and help to kick start the construction of new housing as well.'

Mr Enright said: 'We consider the whole issue of social housing very, very seriously. Our staff are dealing with these cases every day. They're meeting upset women and children who have been evicted and who lost their home and our staff help them in their houses. This is a huge issue which our staff are at the frontline of. We are not aloof from this. The solution to the problem is to build as many social houses as we can and to get the funding to do that also.'

Mr Enright said it takes 18 months to build a house. 'We have to do a Part 8 planning process for any new housing developments, then there is the design and the procurement process. It takes time. It's not a simple process. We are on track on our existing housing programme. We bought 100 houses last year and we don't want to be pricing other people out of the market.'

He said there are far fewer vacant houses in the county than has been reported nationally as many home owners did not fill out their Census forms and as a result their houses were recorded as being vacant.

'We are in the process of acquiring housing units in Wexford. We are buying houses in receivership from banks and CPO'ing properties.'

Cllr Malcolm Byrne said there are 466 planing enforcement cases open, pointing out that the staff have to simultaneously contend with building control and other issues. 'As we are starting to see the growth in construction rates in the county is that section adequately resourced. I don't want to see things happen like they did in the past. A lot of building work started and we were playing catch up. Some of these 466 cases have been running for a number of years at this stage.'

Cllr Byrne said he does not want to see the council having to deal with the problem of more unfinished estates in five years time.

Director of Services for Economic Development Tony Larkin said: 'We have been stepping up our actions on bigger cases. We have also been closing files on certain cases we can't progress. More resources can always be used, but I am satisfied that we are getting the work done. The balance going forward is to be proactively engaged with multi-unit residential developers. We need to guard against a situation where the buyer is relatively unsophisticated.'

He added: 'The department have sanctioned extra staff and we are constantly examining our staff.'

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