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Doubts cast on large-scale affordable housing schemes for Mayo


Pic: Creative Commons/Alan Cleaver

Mayo’s housing market not seen as battling an affordability crisis, says Mayo County Council’s Tom Gilligan

Anton McNulty

A SENIOR Mayo County Council official has warned councillors it will be difficult to convince the Department of Housing to make funding available for affordable housing schemes in Mayo.
The issue of the housing crisis in the county was raised again at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. Housing stock for young couples who do not qualify for social housing was of particular concern.
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland told the meeting that the income bands for social housing has not changed in ten years, and claimed anyone who works two nights in a chipper could not qualify. Ballina councillor Mark Duffy added that he knows of people who want to take up jobs in Ballina, but cannot do so as there is a shortage of houses to rent or buy in the town.

Not simple
Tom Gilligan, Director of Services with responsibility for housing, said that the council will make applications for affordable housing when schemes become available. However, he stressed that convincing the Department of Housing that there is a demand for affordable housing will not be simple.
“I know Mayo would not be seen as a county where there would have affordability issues,” he said.
“The argument isn’t in relation to funding, the question is will the department sign off on whether we have an affordability issue in Mayo. That’s the hurdle we will have to cross as to whether we will be eligible for an affordable housing scheme in the county. The figures don’t stack up, and it will be a hard case to prove,” he warned. He said that if the Department of Housing considers the county as a whole, Mayo is unlikely to qualify for funding. However, he indicated, if ‘certain pockets’ – where the housing market is squeezed and overheated  – were to be considered, perhaps the situation would be different.
Mr Gilligan said the focus of the department’s attention regarding affordable housing will be on the country’s main urban centres as well as commuter counties like Meath and Kildare. He said that while towns like Westport may qualify on their own for affordable housing, he is not sure the department will look at it that way.
“Talking to colleagues in Tipperary they have the same issues in Nenagh and Clonmel where they would be unique towns … they are in the same boat as we are in, in Mayo…
“Westport would be the test case, and we will see if we can get an affordable housing scheme in Westport. If we can do that, we will look at other parts of the county. But that will be the difficult case,” he said.

Information gap
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne complained that people who are over the band for social housing cannot register, and as a result the Council does not know how many people want affordable housing.
“Unless you have the information on who will apply for affordable housing you cannot plan for it,” he said.