Council-commissioned report draws fire from locals and politicians
A report commissioned by Mayo County Council has been branded as ludicrous by locals and politicians alike.
The report’s conclusion — that there is no affordability crisis in the West Mayo town — has been greeted with derision by families and individuals looking to secure a home, and the situation is now extreme according to local councillors.
“People are being abandoned. There’s no affordable housing schemes in Mayo. There’s nothing for working people, and this report is a load of rubbish. The report is only adding to the frustration and desperation felt by families in our community,” commented Cllr Christy Hyland.
The ‘Housing Market Analysis Westport’ report from KPMG says there is ‘good affordability across unit types in Westport’. It says the projected average cost of a home in Westport is €276,016 and this is not causing an affordability crisis in the town.
Both statements are hotly disputed on the ground.
“I honestly don’t know where these people are coming from,” prospective house buyer Shane Golden told The Mayo News. “Firstly, how does an ordinary working person save up for such a mortgage, and secondly, good luck to you if you can find a proper house in Westport for that price.
“I’ve been working two jobs to try and get a home of my own, and there’s no prospect of me doing so. KPMG’s average house price takes into account every type of accommodation there is, from one bedroom apartments to old houses that need another €100,000 spent on them, but they fail to mention that. The affordability crisis is utterly real but the authorities are closing their eyes to us.”
A local couple, who wish to remain anonymous, told The Mayo News that they have been renting a property for more than a decade and now face the prospect of tearing their family apart because of an upcoming rent hike.
“If we wait in Westport the family will have to split up. I’ll take one of the kids and go live with my family and she will take the rest and go live with her mother.
“Can you actually imagine that? We’re at a time in our lives when things should be getting easier, yet we’re faced with the prospect of splitting up the family and moving back in with our parents.”
The couple have saved religiously for ten years to secure a home of their own, but now the prospect of doing so seems as far away as ever.
“I’m 42 years old, and no matter what I do I can’t provide a home in my own town for my family. It’s not normal. It’s not right,” the husband explained during an emotional interview.
Their plight was highlighted by Cllr Hyland, who said the lack of affordable housing schemes in Mayo is a travesty. “There is absolutely no support for anyone earning over €26,000 - nothing! They’re left in limbo and I honestly don’t think anyone in power cares.”
Cllr Flynn, who is passionate about the issue, sees two actions that could be taken.
“There are two very simple solutions which would go a long way towards helping our people,” he said. “Firstly, provide serviced sites throughout the county. The County Council has land-banks everywhere, so why not set out plots in all our towns and villages – bring the services to them and sell them at an affordable price to locals in need. These people could then build their homes inside a specific time period, and it would benefit everyone, the families, the communities and the nation.
“Secondly, raise the ludicrous €26,000 limit for social housing to €50,000. Go into every town in the country, build the homes and people could then pay them back according to their means. These two simple things were achieved previously in every town in Mayo, and I can’t see why it can’t be done again.
“I suppose the housing list would initially grow hugely if the income threshold was risen and the narrative wouldn’t look good for whoever was in power at the time, but what do we want, a good narrative or our people in homes of their own? I know what I want to see,” Flynn added.
At last week’s Housing SPC meeting of Mayo County Council it was announced that the local authority will build 115 housing units in 2022 and a further 899 before 2026.
However, this figure was lambasted by Cllr Michael Kilcoyne.
“Today, we have 1,400 on the housing list and that’s not taking into account the huge amount of people throughout Mayo who need and want affordable housing.
What good is 90 units when we have literally thousands of families crying out for a house? God help all those people. The targets should be much bigger and the time-frame much shorter.
“The Government has given a commitment to end homelessness by 2030 but that’s another pipe dream,” said Kilcoyne.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the councillors agreed that a register of all those in need of affordable housing in Mayo be compiled urgently, and a media advertising campaign asking people to join the list will be put in place shortly.