People who are looking to get a home in the Westport area and are earning between €30,000 and €40,000 a year are probably better off quitting their jobs and looking to get on the social housing list in order to get one of the new social houses being built in the town, local councillor Peter Flynn said this week.
Cllr Flynn was speaking at the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District meeting on Monday on the topic of housing, where the dire shortage of housing to rent or buy for a reasonable price in the area was discussed by councillors.
A number of councillors who spoke on the issue told the meeting of people coming to them looking for help - but with no affordable housing scheme in the area and house prices increasing all the time - there was very little they could do for them.
Cllr Flynn told the meeting: "This is the single most important topic, it impacts on so many people in the entire county, but in particular in West Mayo where there isn't anything to rent or to buy.
"When you have people knocking on your door in tears, genuinely in tears, grown men and grown women in tears because they do not know what to do - they don't know know where to turn; I just feel as a housing authority we have let people down.
"It is great news there will be 103 social housing units delivered in this district, there will be around 730 social houses delivered in the county in the next five years, and again, that is great news, but I don't see one single number for an affordable housing scheme.
"If someone comes to my door, I think the only advice I can give them right now is to pack up your job and apply for RAS, apply for HAP and you'll get in the back door onto a social housing scheme.
"The Golf Course Road housing scheme - each house is going to cost in the region of €270,000 to build and when you start doing the maths on it, why would you work, if you've got a €30,000 or €40,000 job; why would you work, when you would effectively receive a house worth €270,000? That's the reality of it, that is the system we are working in.
"I would hate to tell anybody in the construction industry or anyone in the hospitality or manufacturing industry to say to your employees, you should really consider your jobs. It is an awful indictment of the system we live in right now that it seems to be the only option for people - to give up their jobs, apply for HAP, apply for RAS, get in the system, for the 730 houses coming up in Mayo.
"That is a stark message and I take no pleasure in saying it, but that is my view, it is where we are and we all need to wake up to the reality of what is happening; we will continue to see more and more people knocking on our doors and I don't have any answers for them."
Prior to Cllr Flynn speaking on the matter, Cllr Christy Hyland told a similar story, saying: "This morning I got a phone call from a young chap in Westport; he has four children and I have spoken to him often and it would bring tears to your eyes. He can get a mortgage of €180,000, that's what he'll get; he's born and bred in the town; but he can't get anything, he won't get anything - he doesn't qualify for social housing.
"I talked to him for a while; he's paying €800 a month in rent, where will he go? He's been paying it for a good few years. Ring me if you can find a house in good condition in Newport, Louisburgh or Westport for this man and his family at €180,000. I'm giving an example, and that is just one; you all know about them. Where will these people go? In the 70s, 80s and 90s, we built the finest of homes in Westport."
Cllr Johno O'Malley added that for someone to build their own house, it was becoming increasingly difficult, as they will struggle to get a mortgage for what it will cost them to build it.
He told the meeting: "Westport is in a desperate situation now for housing. The sad thing is that people are coming to you and me, they are working in a full-time job, paying high taxes, but they can't own a home and can't afford to buy a site and build on it, because they can't get enough of a mortgage.
"The most that people who have a very decent job can get, it won't build a house for them; you can be laying out at least €300,000 to build a house - and that's without a site.
"I have talked to builders and they won't even quote you now. They were building houses, but not any more. If you want to build a house, you go ahead, you bring in the contractor, he does so much, the other one does so much, you pay for the material and get it, but you won't do it for less than €300,000.
"I know a young couple, they left Westport and went quite the ways out the country because they had a site; they built the house and it cost them just around the €300,000 they were born and reared in Westport. They are now about nine miles outside Westport and the only reason they could do that is that they had a site.
"What will people do who don't have a site, and can't buy a site? You can't get one around the town, and if you do, they won't get enough of a mortgage to build it. Those people in the middle are trapped in limbo and out of it they will never come, unless somebody comes out to help them. You'd cry, they come up to you with their little kid - they can't afford to buy, they are renting and they could be kicked out tomorrow."