The lack of houses for sale is causing huge problems for people in West Mayo, according to a number of councillors who spoke at the May meeting of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District on Monday.
Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn asked for a number of reports on various housing concerns to be brought before the councillors at their next meeting. Speaking at the meeting he said: "This is no longer just a Westport problem, it is the whole district. You go to Louisbrugh and there are no houses to be bought, come towards town from there, nothing available, go down to Newport, very little available right now.
"This is becoming a huge issue. I was talking to a major employer who is looking to recruit staff and the people they are looking to recruit are saying they couldn't rent a room in the town; we need to wake up here and figure out what we can do with housing supply. Yes, there are things outside our control, yes, there are things nationally that we can't manage, but there are a hell of a lot of things from a council perspective that we do have control over.
"I would like an update on all our derelict buildings, where are we going with them, not just Westport - but all the locations (in the district ); we need to get these translated into liveable units. If people are not willing to do something about them themselves, then we need to move to CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order ), we need to regenerate our towns and villages, we can't sit on our hands. We have the wherewithal within the council to make that happen, there is also the repair and lease scheme.
"If I look at Mayo and compare it to somewhere like Waterford, we have again again failed miserably in terms of the lease and repair scheme, where again we can bring properties back into use, where landlords can use HAP and RAS. For the next council meeting I want a report on where we are going in relation to dereliction in the district.
"We've had four very significant developments in this town (Westport ) - and as far as I can see there was no part five used there. (A part five scheme scheme allows a local authority to require developers to set aside a certain proportion of new developments for social or affordable housing ).
Independent councillor Christy Hyland told the meeting that rules in relation to people having a connection to a local area was causing serious issues, where people can't buy a site and build a home like he did himself when he first arrived in the area over three decades ago.
He said: "I know a man who got a job here locally and he couldn't take it up as he couldn't get a house, there was no house for sale in Westport - he had no business going down to John O'Malley for a site or his neighbour, like I did 30 years ago, because he wouldn't get planning permission - he'd be told he's not from the area. We talk about development lands and about increasing population - how can you have an increase in the population where there is no homes for the people to come in to any of the fine industries we have here.
"I know stories of public servants, they'd love to buy a site, but the can't get planning permission because they are not from the area, that's how I came here 35 years ago - I went down and bought a site and my children and grandchildren are growing up here. How can we talk about development lands and population increase, when a person can't go out to a good, thriving rural area, buy a site off a local who wants a few euro to send his kids to college or do something?
"They are not going to get planning permission, because they are not from the area. If you get the job and come into Westport town and you can find a house for sale, well done. We've lost the plot when it comes to housing."