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20 Jan 2022

15 single people and five families are homeless in Offaly

'We need to get real' on housing, Offaly County Council meeting hears

Owning their own home is a dream which remains elusive for many living in Offaly

FIFTEEN single people and five families are homeless in Offaly, it was revealed recently.
The Chief Executive of Offaly County Council Anna Marie Delaney told the October County Council meeting that this was the homeless situation at the end of September. She said the thirty or so people are being supported in emergency accommodation.
The figures show that homelessness remains a significant problem in the county after several years of media headlines and government statements about it.
Nonetheless there was a palpable sense of hope in the Council chamber as the councillors looked over the latest housing report for the county.
They were told by Monica Cleary of Aras an Chontae's Housing Department that, under the Rebuilding Ireland programme, the Council is working on bringing 128 houses for occupancy into the system. Rebuilding Ireland is a governmental scheme which has been running for some time and has been producing some results. A Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a government-backed mortgage for first-time buyers. Ms Cleary said that of the projected 128 houses 102 are new builds and 26 are acquisitions.
She said the houses which the Council works on developing come under various housing brackets, including Approved Housing Bodies (which the Council works in tandem with), Turnkeys, Part V, Acquisitions, and Buy and Renew.
Part V enables local authorities to achieve their aims by requiring housing developers to enter into an agreement, with the relevant Local Authority, to provide houses, fully or partially serviced sites, or land or an equivalent monetary contribution for the purposes of Social and Affordable Housing.
A turnkey home literally means that once the building is completed, you can turn the key in the front door and start living there straight away, with no further work required. Turnkey housing projects are where a local authority, such as Offaly County Council, enter into a contract with private small builders or developers to purchase new housing on private land, usually taking advantage of their designs which are fully building regulation compliant and planning permissions are already in place. Turnkeys involve activating private housing developments which otherwise would not be built, or completing unfinished estates.
She said she had a good news story for the councillors. “101 turnkey homes will have been developed by the end of 2022. This includes 34 houses in McAuley Drive, Birr.”
Other good news which she gave to the Councillors included the news that a contractor has been appointed, and is on site, to build 18 Council homes in Kylebeg, Banagher; and 38 proposed Council homes are at Stage 3 approval in Raheen Clara.
She added that 185 Approved Housing Bodies' homes are in the construction pipeline, many of them in Tullamore, including 28 (Cluid) in Jackson's Hill Tullamore, 16 (Cluid) in Hawthorns Tullamore, 19 (Oaklee) in Clonminch Tullamore, 41 (Oaklee) in Kearney's Field Tullamore, and 17 (Sophia) in Clonamore Tullamore.
She broke down the Council's Housing Delivery and Pipeline from 2021 to 2023 as follows: Turnkeys negotiated: 101. Council's own build programme: 120. Partnership with various AHBs: 185. “This means that the total new build homes for Offaly's Social Housing Waiting List between now and the end of 2023 is 406.”
She said the Housing for All government programme is committed to eradicating homelessness; to supporting home ownership and increasing affordability. It's also committed to increasing the new housing supply, to improving the efficient use of existing stock; and to addressing the vacancy problem.
In her monthly report Anna Marie Delaney said there are 522 applicants on the Social Housing List awaiting housing support at the end of September 2021.
She said a further 800 active tenancies are currently being supported under the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Scheme. “Nine signed up for HAP and 15 exited from HAP in September,” she remarked.
“23 Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans applications have been received in 2021. Six have been approved, nine declined, two ineligible, two withdrawn and the remainder are ready for referral to the Housing Agency. Overall 15 RIHLs have been drawn down since the commencement of the programme.
“The Rent Review of Local Authority housing units was finalised and the revised rent took effect from 9th October.
“Social Housing Assessments (SSHA) 2021 is to be completed by 17th November 2021. All qualified applicants have been notified and outstanding returns should be submitted to the Housing Section without further delay, but no later than 16th October 2021.”
She said Offaly County Council's total housing stock at the end of September 2021 is 1,942.
“265 maintenance calls for some of those houses were logged in September. Maintenance of non-emergency works is continuing with Covid-19 precautions in place.”
As Chairperson of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) Cllr Danny Owens welcomed the presentation from Monica Cleary. “It shows the amount of work that is going on in the various sections of Housing. The strong pipeline and delivery of 406 new build houses in the next three years will go towards meeting the needs of those on our Waiting List. The Housing for All, as the Director and Monica have said is at early stages, and we will be reviewing its policies as they are developed and in particular looking to see how we can progress Affordable Housing in Offaly.
“During the last two years the SPC have got regular updates in relation to the Retrofit Programme and its roll out. (Covid did cause some initial delays to it starting).
“And we have also reviewed the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People & People with a Disability Scheme (Private Grants) and looked at increasing the maximum limits that were applying to these grants in Offaly.
“We spent some time reviewing the Anti-Social Behaviour Strategy and it was adopted by the full Council in September last year and the interagency group was established and reports to the JPC.
“While they are executive functions updates on modifications to Differential Rent Scheme are also being discussed at SPC. The Offaly Disability Strategy 2022-2027 is also being considered at the SPC.”
Cllr Owens said there is a lot of work going on and the SPC appreciates the efforts being made to deliver across the various housing programmes.

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