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‘I have people coming to me in tears’


Pic: Creative Commons/Alan Cleaver

West Mayo councillors say house hunters are at their wits’ end 

Michael Gallagher

Many people trying to secure a home of their own would have a better chance if they gave up work. That was the stark message delivered by one county councillor at last week’s meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal Area.
Cllr Peter Flynn said the housing situation in Westport, Louisburgh and Newport had reached dire proportions and people are at their wits’ end.
“As far as I can see, if you’re earning an average salary you’re as well to give up the job if you want to secure a house to live in,” he told the meeting. “If you’re not working you will probably qualify for Haps (Housing Assistance Payment) or RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) payments or qualify for local authority housing, and over 700 new units of council housing are planned for the county at present.”
He also asserted that there is no prospect of any affordable housing schemes being established along the Clew Bay corridor in the near future.

Cllr Christy Hyland agreed with Flynn, and said constituents were in agonising situations. “I have people coming to me in tears. They don’t know what to do or where to turn to. They’re hard-working people looking to raise families in our locality and they’re desperate now, desperate I tell you.
“What’s wrong with the way things were done in the past? In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s houses were built for our people, and they didn’t have to go around begging for a roof over their heads. What was wrong with the way things were done back then?
“I had a man at me yesterday who can secure a €180,000 mortgage, but there are no houses for him to buy in that price range in Westport, Louisburgh or Newport. I defy anyone here to find me a suitable one for him and his family.”

House prices
Cllr Paul McNamara urged caution on the issue and disagreed with suggestions that people would be better off giving up their employment.
“This isn’t a feasible suggestion,” he said. “There are a lot of issues at play here. I’m absolutely delighted to see social housing schemes being rolled out across our area, and I welcome the schemes in Mulranny, Achill and elsewhere.”
However, he also urged Mayo County Council to ‘look at developing other schemes in places like Ballycroy to give people a chance to live in rural communities and maintain them as living entities’.
“Nationally, there haven’t been enough houses built in recent years, and that is adding to the problem in Westport, as well as the problem of supply and demand. There is huge employment in Westport, and this drives up the house prices which lock a lot of people out of the market.”
Cllr Gerry Coyle urged people to look outside the Westport area for housing. “We have great houses in Belmullet waiting for them.
“I sold a six-bedroom house on an acre of land for €190,000 lately, and we’d welcome anyone who comes to live in our area,” he said.
Reacting to Coyle’s statement, Cllr John O’Malley said: “I bet you wouldn’t swing a cat in that house, Gerry.”
“I assure you you’d turn a car in it,” Coyle responded.

3011 MPU