The ongoing saga over the new tenant purchase scheme for social housing, which sees current tenants of social housing having until the end of next year to buy out their homes or lose their chance of ever owning that home, dominated a large chunk of the November meeting of Mayo County Council.
The issue was raised by Fine Gael whip Joe Mellett at the outset of the meeting, where he read out a response to a question from Dep John O’Mahony to the Minister of State with responsibility for Housing, Dep Michael Finneran, who said he didn’t plan to review the new scheme. Fine Gael councillor Eddie Staunton told the members that, as chairperson of the housing SPC, he had met with Minister of State Finneran along with Fianna Fáil councillor Annie May Reape and Independent councillor Gerry Ginty and that the Minister had given them a good hearing on the issue.
“When we met with Minister Finneran he seemed very taken aback by what we told him would happen under this scheme, we were the first council to raise the issue with him,” Cllr Ginty said. Cllr Ginty told the meeting that this scheme, if it goes ahead, would cause havoc in communities throughout the county. “What will happen the rural social houses that people live in, they might not have the money to buy them now and when they do, they can’t buy the house they have lived in and the council will be left with unleasable houses that other people won’t want. The people will be sandwiched into towns where the services are and that’s what the Government want, what you’re going to end up with is a situation where local authorities won’t be building any more houses. This won’t work in Mayo, it has been designed to help the developers in Dublin and not to help rural Ireland.”
Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle, who represents the Belmullet area, agreed with Cllr Ginty. “This will be the death knell for rural Ireland,” Cllr Coyle said. “We have the Céide Fields where people were living 5,000 years ago, now they will force the people out of Erris and into Ballina and Newport.”
Independent Castlebar based Cllr Michael Kilcoyne told the meeting, “He is condemning people to live in houses that they can never buy.”
County manager Peter Hynes told the meeting, “The first meeting that the housing SPC had with Minister of State Finneran was very good and we will arrange another meeting with him when he is back in Mayo on November 15”.