SINN Féin councillor Séamus Browne told Limerick council officials that smaller scale housing developments are needed in rural villages in West Limerick to keep families from being “forcibly moved” into bigger urban areas.
Speaking at a special meeting on housing developments within Newcastle West Municipal District on this Wednesday, Cllr Browne suggested that the council executive “pay more attention to councillors and less attention to the Department of Housing”.
“There are 20 empty houses in the district going back to 2016 and 2017 and we are now looking at 2019 and they are still not available to people. These houses are there, they are built, and they are available. We are told by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy that money isn’t a problem, which doesn’t explain why we have houses sitting idle since 2016,” said Cllr Browne.
“I don’t think we are putting enough emphasis on the smaller towns and villages. We should be going for smaller developments of five to ten houses and not pulling people from these communities into bigger urban areas. I know this is European policy, but I don’t agree with it.
“We should build smaller scale developments to keep families in communities. I guarantee you will find a lot of people on the Housing List for Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale from the outlying towns and villages who would like the opportunity to stay within their communities. We are almost forcing them out,” he told the council executive.
Senior Architect with Limerick City and County Council, Seamus Hanrahan said he agreed “pretty much with 100 per cent” of what Cllr Browne had said. He explained that the local authority is currently buying vacant property in areas such as Mountcollins and Athea to refurbish as well as looking at building small scale developments.
Cllr Browne believes the Department of Housing is “out of touch”.
“They are sitting in a big office in Dublin looking at graphs. As long as they can say they built 5,000 houses this year, they don’t care if they are in the right place or not. Housing policy needs to be reexamined for rural areas instead of moving people from their communities,” he insisted.
Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin called for the issue of unoccupied houses to remain on the council agenda until it has been addressed.
“These aren’t voids or casual vacancies, they are empty houses and that is unacceptable,” he declared.