Ó Cuív accuses Environment Minister of council housing ‘anti-rural bias’
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.
By Martina Nee
A Galway TD has accused the Environment minister, Phil Hogan, and his department of displaying an “anti-rural bias” by refusing to provide sufficient council housing in rural areas, therefore forcing people to leave the area.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív this week spoke of how disapointed he was to hear from Galway County Council that it intends to build only one or two rural council houses this year and that there is no intention to build any more rural council houses for the foreeable future. It is understood that this is a policy implemented by the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government which Deputy Ó Cuív has described as “anti-rural bias”.
“Rural council houses were a very efficient and cost effective way of providing houses for people living in rural areas as the applicant nearly always provided the site at a nominal sum to the council. It was also the most socially acceptable as it ensured that the countryside did not lose population and also because applicants continued to live near family with all the supports this gives.
“The government policy seems to be to provide social housing solely by leasing properties. While I can accept the advantage of this for mobile population, I feel it is totally the wrong policy where families with children are concerned as children growing up need certainty and stability and need to be sure that they will not have to change from school to school as they are forced to move from area to area. At a time when houses are available at very economic rates you would have thought that the Government would seize the opportunity to buy houses for people on the housing list.
“I now call on the minister to change his policy and to allow the Housing Finance Agency to lend money to local authorities for local government housing and to ensure the tradition of people owning their own houses or living in local authority houses is maintained,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
Deputy Ó Cuív also expressed his outrage at the tenant purchase scheme which has meant that people in receipt of social welfare payments are not eligible to buy houses they are renting, no matter what resources they may have available to them.
“This is a very regressive step as in many cases, with the purchase discount taken into account, the loan repayments would be less than the current rent. Home ownership should be encouraged in every way we can as it adds to the stability of society and also because it gives better social outcomes for children. We need to examine all our policies to see their long term effect and I am sure the long term effect of present policies will be to add to social difficulties in the future,” he said.