Local authorities have only started to build houses again after the downturn, says Tipperary County Council official Sean Lonergan
It was “an absolute disgrace” to label property owners as profiteers, a local politician has claimed.
An angry Cllr John Fitzgerald said these property owners were “the only show in town for a long time” when they rented their properties to people who needed accommodation, and at a time when the Government wasn’t building houses.
“These people provided housing units when no one else was renting,” he stated.
Cllr Fitzgerald made his remarks at a meeting of Clonmel Borough District during a discussion on housing, during which an official of Tipperary County Council also said there was a very short supply of private rented accommodation across the county.
“There are no houses out there,” stated Housing Administrative Officer, Sean Lonergan.
Cllr Fitzgerald said there was an issue with supply, and that was the problem.
However he took umbrage with the term “landlord”, which had been used during the discussion, because he said “it has connotations with the Famine”.
“A person who owns an apartment in town is a property owner, not a landlord.” He said it was unfair to castigate people for selling up, whether they did so to pay for a child’s college education or to clear a mortgage.
Above: Cllr John Fitzgerald said the term landlord had connotations with the Famine
“The profit they get from that shouldn’t be frowned upon. They are also creating an opportunity for first-time buyers and that’s a good news story,” he said.
Cllr Pat English had stated that the cost of renting a housing unit in Clonmel was between €1,000 and €1,200 a month. Some monthly rents charged by landlords had increased from €700 to €1,200.
This cost was “ridiculous” and he could only see the situation getting worse.
He also said that the homeless problem was worsening.
“It’s all for profit and that has serious consequences for people on the ground.”
Cllr English said the vast majority of landlords were very fair with their clients but there were some who abused tenants and abused the system.
Cllr Siobhán Ambrose said it was a very difficult problem where houses that had been signed up for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) were put up for sale, and then the council had to rehouse those HAP tenants. That meant that others who were on the housing list had a very long wait to be accommodated.
District Mayor Michael Mayor said the housing report seemed to have a huge number of notices to quit by landlords in the last six months, in relation to long-term leasing contracts and RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme).
He asked if there was any analysis as to why landlords were leaving the market.
Was it because it was the right time to sell or would they receive higher rents in the private market, he wondered.
In the last six months more landlords were leaving the market and withdrawing from contracts than in the last five years.
RAS and long-term leasing were important instruments to local authorities but now they were under huge pressure, said the District Mayor.
Housing official Sean Lonergan said “we’re under awful pressure in relation to the number of notices to quit we’ve received”.
He said the council had 864 HAP tenants across the county, and those people were also on the housing waiting list.
He said a lot of notices to quit had been received in relation to HAP, RAS and in some cases long-term leasing. The council had interceded with landlords under HAP and RAS to minimise the number of notices to quit.
In some cases the council had served notices on landlords to improve conditions for tenants.
The council was responsible for housing RAS tenants, while if a HAP tenant received a notice to quit the council provided them with another new pack to look for private rented accommodation.
Councils were only starting to build houses again after the downturn, and were trying to get houses in place as quickly as possible.
Above: Cllr Pat English said that massive increases in rent "had huge consequences for people."
However, Mr Lonergan said it wasn’t all bad news, because the council had two HAP place finders in operation, one in the south of the county and the other in the north.
All those approved for HAP and who were on the transfer list were also considered for council housing.
The council also had two Homeless Prevention Officers in place and services were available for those who were homeless.
Clients who were genuinely homeless had been given accommodation on a six month basis in a council house, with an exit strategy to ensure they had good standard accommodation to move onto.
Choice-based letting was also at the centre of their letting process.
This policy had seen refusal rates in Cork drop from 30% to 9%.
The refusal rates in the Clonmel district were 27.3% and he hoped this policy would help those rates to fall to 9% when it was up and running.
Mr Lonergan said they had put a lot of effort into ensuring that the homeless were looked after.
The money the council was spending on emergency accommodation had dropped because they were focusing on prevention.
Mr Lonergan said the council had exceeded targets set by the Department of Housing.
Social housing support was provided for everyone entitled to it.
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