NOVAS, the largest provider of homeless services in the Mid-West, believe that recent comments made by local councillors highlights the stigmatisation of social housing residents in Limerick.
The voluntary agency said it was disappointed by a recent article in the Limerick Post on this month’s Adare-Rathkeale municipal district meeting.
Novas accused local councillors of “debasing” regional Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) for their acquisition of social housing throughout County Limerick.
Former Mayor Cllr Kevin Sheahan claimed at the meeting that a number of properties have been purchased by AHBs for social housing in Askeaton, Pallaskenry and Newcastle West.
He questioned the logic of this move, criticising groups such as Mid-West Simon, the Peter McVerry Trust and Clúid for “doubling up” on the work of the local authority and effectively, imposing extra costs on the taxpayer.
While Novas was not mentioned in the exchange, they felt it was important to respond to the issue, as they claim it “devalues the vital work of all Approved Housing Bodies who are engaged in acquisition programmes in a response to the national homeless crisis”.
“In the first instance, it is important to clarify some facts. During the meeting, AHBs were referred to as ‘profit making’ and ‘parasites’ that were ‘doubling up’ on the work of the Local Authority. All ABHs, including Novas, are non-profit,” a statement from Novas explained.
“We support low-income households to secure long-term housing, that they would otherwise be unable to access. All properties are purchased in collaboration with Limerick City and County Council. One of the reasons that AHBs purchase social housing properties, is because the council does not have access to certain funding streams that AHBs do. This is why it is vital that approved bodies and local authorities work in partnership.
“AHBs often have the social care skills to provide packages of support to households to ensure successful tenancies. Novas has an excellent working relationship with the local authority in Limerick and all purchasing programmes by the organisation are approved in advance by the council, which result in the vast majority of tenancies being successful.”
Novas also took umbrage with comments made during the meeting by Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary.
“The article also relayed comments that AHBs often charge higher rents than the local authority. This is absolutely untrue. Novas charge rents based on the council’s differential rent scheme.
“The comments made by certain councillors not only devalued the work of ABHs but also incite distrust and suspicion of social housing tenants, with the suggestion that by living in proximity to home owners and those who are private-renting they ‘will bring nothing but hardship and despair to hard working families’.
“Recent research conducted by Cluid highlights the stigmatisation felt by social housing tenants and the impact this has on their well-being. Comments made by our public representatives,who also represent people living in social housing, further highlights the alienation and stigmatisation experienced by that section of society.
“Novas was most surprised by the views of local Fine Gael councillors whose comments were totally contrary to Rebuilding Ireland, the government strategy to end long-term homelessness in Ireland. It highlights the vital contribution AHBs have to ending the crisis.”
A special meeting will take place at council offices in Dooradoyle this Thursday at 7.30pm to ascertain detailed information on the involvement of AHBs in the district.
by Alan Jacques