There are 20 state of the art houses lying empty in a newly built Castlebar Town Council housing scheme because the Department of the Environment has withdrawn funding for affordable houses.
The 59-house estate called Lios na Coirche, on the Belcarra Road out of Castlebar at Milebush, is a state-of-the-art development, the first local authority scheme to use natural gas supplies for heating instead of oil. It also boasts a children’s playground, something which is lacking in most other areas of the county town, and something which the Mayor fought to have included.
Mayor of Castlebar Independent Councillor Michael Kilcoyne is outraged that the Department would pull the funding when the estate is complete and ready for occupation.
The other 39 houses have been let by Castlebar Town Council to people who were on the local housing list.
Currently there are 4,000 people on Mayo County Council’s housing list and 400 on Castlebar Town Council’s and they too won’t benefit from the 20 idle units.
The idea of the affordable housing is that lower income house buyers are given the chance to buy newly constructed homes and apartments in areas where property prices have created an affordability gap. These properties are then offered for sale to eligible first-time purchasers at prices significantly less than their actual market value.
The market value for the houses in Lios na Coirche is approximately €220,000 according to Cllr Kilcoyne. However they would have been available to eligible affordable house buyers for €150,000 or €160,000. But since the Department has pulled the funding they will remain empty.
Cllr Kilcoyne wants to see one of two actions to be taken by the government. Either he wants the Department to reverse its decision and give the subsidy for this scheme or allow Castlebar Town Council to let the houses as social housing.
What’s contradictory about all of this is that the Government are currently subsidising housing in the form of rent relief which private landlords benefit from. These subsidies are administered through the Department of Social Welfare. But the Department of the Environment and the housing Minister Michael Finneran from Roscommon have had their funding slashed.
“Nothing has changed,” said an irate Cllr Kilcoyne, “since the days when we had loads of money. I can’t find the words to describe the incompetence of the Department of the Environment. They are so far removed from reality, they don’t have a clue,” he added.
The independent councillor is of the opinion that the houses may be given over to a housing organisation such as Cluid. However, he said occupants of such housing units don’t have the same rights as those in local authority housing because they don’t have the option to buy out their homes.
Minister Finneran’s office was contact by the Mayo Advertiser to find out what actions his Department intend making. No reply had been received at the time of going to print.