Rental Accommodation Scheme explosion in sight, says councillor

Council tenants on the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS ) will find themselves out on the street when landlords decide to sell their houses, a Mullingar councillor has warned.

Cllr Mick Dollard made the dark prediction at the recent Mullingar Area meeting, where he said local authorities must look at the possibility of acquiring social housing in estates taken over by NAMA.

“RAS is very, very attractive, but it won’t always be there,” he said.

“When people [homeowners] want to sell, people there under the RAS scheme will be on the street,” he said.

He said there’s a huge deficit in housing stock in Westmeath and “absolutely no houses are being constructed by Westmeath County Council”.

Yet the county council has sent out 1,600 housing assessment forms and Athlone Town Council has sent out a further 1,200, indicating the need for housing in the county.

And he proposed that because the tax payer is funding NAMA and the banks, that “a lot of those houses should be brought into the local authority”.

He said he was unsatisfied with a housing report given to the Housing SPC, because “so much is outside the council’s control”.

Director of services David Hogan said that unless the council gets more money from the Department of the Environment, they are not in a position to acquire more houses.

The comments arose in the context of a discussion about one Mullingar estate whose developer is in receivership.

The council has been in discussion with the receiver and is awaiting his report later this month about whether there will be additional funding to complete works at Cluain Lara.

Cllr Penrose complimented the work done so far, as did Cllr Glynn but both expressed concerns about the fate of houses in the estate.

Mr Hogan said it’s up to the receiver, who was appointed by the bank earlier this year, to make the decision and the council will engage with him “to deliver the best solution for the residents and Westmeath County Council”.

He said the council has already recovered funds from the bond lodged by the developer.

“We’re looking at providing the best solution with the funds we’ve got,” he said about Cluain Lara, but added that “the broader issue is outside of our control”.

Cllr Glynn said the obvious priority has to be to get the work done and provide essential services for the residents.

“Our priority is to make Cluain Lara a safe place to live, anything outside that is not on our list at present,” said Mr Hogan, who had the last word on the subject.

Cllr Dollard remained concerned about what he called the “very fundamental questions” that have to be answered by NAMA.

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