Limerick Council social housing policy in ‘tatters’

Cllr Joe Leddin

LABOUR Party councillor Joe Leddin this week expressed concern regarding what he sees as “the growing disconnect between senior executives with responsibility for implementing housing policy and elected members”.

A member of the Social Housing policy committee, Cllr Leddin claimed at County Hall this Monday that recent actions and policy decisions by the Council concerning housing policy are totally at odds with the views of elected members.

According to the City West representative, recent selection of unsuitable sites for the building of houses in recent weeks has caused huge concern and upset in established communities in Thomondgate and Upper Carey’s Road.

“Decisions are being made by senior officials to proceed with plans with absolutely no regard for the views of elected members and this is an extremely worrying trend in the Council. We cannot have a scenario whereby contractors are moving onto sites to undertake site feasibility works while local residents and councillors are not informed,” Cllr Leddin told the council executive.

“Thousands of people and families are waiting to be housed and yet management seem intent on selling off perfectly suitable sites such as the Guinness site owned by the Council for over 20 years. In addition the practice of buying houses in private estates is a flawed policy that is not sustainable and does nothing to support job creation.

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“Expressions of interest to the owners of suitable land banks to engage with the Council with a view to developing housing schemes is in direct contradiction to a prevailing view by management not to build social houses and to dispose of Council owned sites.”

Leddin went on to say that following the publication of a list of strategic sites within the Metropolitan area suitable for social and affordable houses, the Council now finds itself in the “bizarre” situation of additional sites being identified for development.

“Our housing policy is in tatters and in need of urgent re-evaluation if we are to deliver the much-needed houses for those most vulnerable of people looking for a home,” he declared.

Cllr Leddin then took umbrage that no member of the Council’s new Design and Delivery Department were present at Monday’s Housing SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) meeting. He proposed that the meeting be suspended until someone from the department came to answer their questions. His proposal was seconded by Sinn Fein councillor John Costelloe.

Fine Gael councillor Jerome Scanlan also felt it was “essential” that the Design and Delivery team be present at Housing meetings.

“The delays out the county are frightening. People who have been allocated houses are still waiting tenancy one year on. Someone has to be accountable. We have to be accountable in this authority,” Cllr Scanlan insisted.

Director of Services for Housing, Seamus Hanrahan, pointed out that the Design and Delivery section was not policy driven.

“This is the policy forum,” he said.

Committee chairperson Will O’Donnell (FG) then suggested that Cllr Leddin withdraw his motion and instead propose that councillors be informed before site assessments take place in future. After agreeing to this, he was told, “this would be addressed”.

by Alan Jacques