Council rejects claims of failing to address housing applications backlog

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Cllr Sarah Kiely, Fine Gael. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

by David Raleigh

[email protected]

LIMERICK City and County Council (LCCC) has rejected claims that it is failing to adequately address a growing backlog of housing assessment applications.

It follows a disclosure to the Limerick Post that staff have not been replaced in the Council’s housing department which is struggling to deal with the backlog of housing applications.

The source described the situation as “symptomatic of the mess that the housing section of LCCC is in”.

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Limerick Fine Gael Councillor, Sarah Kiely, said she was awaiting a response from the Council after raising “the issue of processing times for housing applicants to be approved or accepted on to the the housing list”.

Cllr Kiely said she understood there were two Council staff assessing applications for local authority housing in Limerick and that people who have drifted into rent arrears due to the Covid pandemic “get no help with rent payments” while they await assessment for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

She claimed assessments are taking longer than the statutory 12-week time limit on processing applications with some in rent arrears awaiting a decision since last July.

“I have people coming to me who are in rent arrears due to being under financial pressure as a result of the pandemic. They do not qualify to be on the housing list, but because the processing time is so long, they have to absorb the full rent without assistance until they get approval.

“One couple who came to me are waiting 18 weeks at this stage. They are under serious pressure financially, and that is why it is imperative that we direct resources into processing,” said Cllr Kiely.

“I have also had contact from someone who wants to leave the family home due to domestic abuse/coercive control. That person feels hopeless because of the situation regarding the processing time.”

Cllr Kiely said anyone experiencing domestic violence should be aware “that if someone owns a home and needs to leave for the reasons outlined they can get HAP on discretionary grounds”.

Monthly reports published on the Council’s website show show that, between January and September, the housing waiting list has languished with in and around 2,300 applications, rising to a high of 3,386 at one point at the end of  February.

The most recent statistics published by the Council are for September and they show that 125 individuals experiencing homelessness were accessing emergency beds in the city.

24 children from 17 families were also in emergency accommodation.

The chief executive’s report for September noted that the council had allocated 229 housing units in the city and county this year.

A Council spokes saipersond it has “a 12-week statutory obligation in relation to the processing of housing applications and we are within this target currently”.

He acknowledged that “changes to financial calculations in April added increased information requirements for persons to be considered for social housing assessment”.

The housing assessments team “lost a dear and valued member to illness in late September. That knowledge and experience is difficult to replace in such a complex and sensitive field of work”.

The Council is currently operating a policy of deploying resources within the housing department to meet increased demand.

“The assessments team experiences increases at various times of the year and it is also completing the Annual Summary of Social Housing Assessment which will be completed this month”.

Staff are managing “on average 120 to 130 new applications a month with on average 40 receiving approval”, they said.

“The public should be aware that only fully completed applications are considered for assessment and a large volume of work goes in to returning applications and highlighting the missing information required to fulfill the statutory process.”