Vacant houses to be renovated

Eighteen vacant houses in Westmeath are to be renovated, but there is no Government funding available for improvements to homes for older and disabled people.

County CEO Pat Gallagher told elected members at the July meeting that the council has received a further €200,000 on top of an earlier allocation from the Department of the Environment and this will make it possible to renovate 18 vacant council houses.

However, Cllr Mick Dollard, former chair of the council’s Housing SPC, said that when it comes to funding for housing aid and mobility needs, Westmeath’s local areas have already spent their annual allocation.

Housing and finance director Jimmy Dalton confirmed this.

“I think we should write a stiff letter to the Minister,” Cllr Dollard said, pointing out that Westmeath uses its full allocation annually, but other councils are a lot less efficient.

He said those who apply for housing aid and mobility support do so because it’s very necessary and the works carried out save the Government a fortune because it allows people to stay in their own homes rather than have to be cared for in nursing facilities.

He described it as one of the best funding streams and uses of funding in the county, and Cllr John Shaw agreed, describing how a small amount of money goes a long, long way.

Cllr Frankie Keena described the housing aid grant scheme as “one of the most successful schemes in the county” and said it provides great value for money.

Mr Gallagher confirmed that the housing aid and mobility grant schemes require matching funding from the council but said they had never been found wanting if Department funds became available.

Cllr Keena also wanted to know how many of the 18 houses due for renovation will be in the Athlone area, but that information wasn’t immediately available.

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