Sunday 17 December 2017

Dissatisfaction with changes to housing scheme

COUNCILLORS on Wexford Borough Council have refused to adopt a new scheme for letting houses to local authority tenants, and want a special meeting to discuss it further.

The Department of the Environment has directed a number of changes to the order of priority, under which houses should be allocated to people who are unable to provide accommodation from their own resources.

But councillors are unhappy with some of the changes, which they regard as unfair.

One of their concerns is that houses being leased by the Borough Council from a private landlord is now seen as equivalent to a house which the local authority owns.

Many people would prefer to rent a Council-owned house, as they may have the option of buying it under favourable terms at a future date.

Housing officer Helen Meehan told Cllr David Hynes (Labour) that if someone is offered a leased house and declines to take it, he or she will be penalised.

'Leased properties are being considered an accommodation solution,' she said.

Cllr Hynes commented that this was 'most unfair'. 'It will be like a lottery then. I don't think this has been thought through.'

' The department is saying now that any option is a housing option and if you refuse it you will be penalised. It reflects the changes in the department's operation of the scheme,' Ms Meehan replied.

Cllr Padge Reck (Independent) was critical of a new condition under which tenants availing of the Rented Accommodation Scheme (RAS) (in which the council leases houses from private landlords on their behalf ), will have to wait for a minimum of three years before seeking transfer to other forms of housing support.

' They have to be on rent supplement for 18 months before being considered for RAS, and then they must wait another three years. At that stage they will have to negotiate with the landlord or else move out, which is a difficult thing to do when you have a family,' said Cllr Reck.

'We should have a special meeting to deal with this,' he added.

Director of services Adrian Doyle said the leasing option stemmed from an over-supply of houses in the market. 'You are trying to find solutions where there is a glut of houses in the market and there is no money available for the council to build or buy houses.'

'I would recommend this scheme as being in compliance with the current regulations and providing a method for housing people. It's as fair a system as you are going to get.' However, Cllr Reck persevered in his objections. 'You say there are minimal changes. These are dramatic, phenomenal changes,' he said, adding that under the old system a woman who was separated from her husband could get a rent supplement and find a house somewhere else but now she can't because she is the co-owner of a house already.

' You are mixing up two totally different issues, Adrian Doyle told him.

Cllr Anthony Kelly warned that a person refusing a second offer of a house would also have his rent supplement cancelled. ' To me this doesn't sound right because they will either become homeless or they will come back on our housing list.' It was unanimously agreed to have a special council meeting to discuss the issue.

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