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Council urged to borrow to build affordable homes

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ANGER AND RESENTMENT AMONG THE PUBLIC Cllr Brendan Mulroy. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Government ‘not going to help us’ – Brendan Mulroy

Anton McNulty

MAYO County Council have been urged to borrow money to build affordable housing as it cannot wait for Government schemes to fund them.
The plea was made by former Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Brendan Mulroy. He told the monthly meeting of the council yesterday (Monday) that the Government are not going to help fund affordable housing schemes in Mayo and it was time the county acted alone.
“Is it not time for the representatives of the county council area of Mayo and the chief executive to take out a loan and start building affording houses ourselves?,” he asked.
“If we borrow the money and start building affordable housing in the county, and we budget accordingly, the rest of the country will follow. I’m sure the Government, out of embarrassment, will probably trump up eventually and pay the cost of it,” he said.
Cllr Mulroy, who is based in Westport, told the meeting the there is a lot of anger and resentment among the public because of the lack of housing.
“We are absolutely going nowhere in this county in relation to housing and we are going around in circles.
“My proposal is that we do get a loan and we start building affordable houses where we have land right now. We won’t be tied down as we know [has happened] in Westport with land and all sorts of regulations. If we did that  [borrow and build] we would show the people of this county we sincerely cared about them.
“The reality is we cannot be waiting for the Government to help us because they are not going to help us on this. If we have to, we cut costs accordingly and house the people of this county,” he said.

Large interest
In May, the Government’s Housing Plan ruled out Co Mayo qualifying for Affordable Housing Schemes, claiming that the average price of a house in the county is one of the lowest nationally.
However, councillors have claimed that there is a high demand for affordable housing in the county, with 774 people expressing interest in affordable housing after responding to a recent Mayo County Council online survey.
A recent SPC meeting on housing stated that 301 were based in West Mayo, 171 in Castlebar, 161 in Ballina and 141 in the Claremorris/Swinford Municipal District. An application for an affordable housing scheme in Westport is to be revised and resubmitted. However, Independent councillor Christy Hyland expressed concern that Kevin Kelly, the Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, informed Westport councillors he was not prepared to borrow to fund affordable housing.
“Do I take it we will not have any affordable housing?” Cllr Hyland demanded of Mr Kelly at yesterday’s [Monday] council meeting.

‘Not given up’
In response, Mr Kelly said the council has not given up on not availing of a national affordable housing scheme, and that any plans to build houses without Government funding will be costly.
“What I said as a local authority if we want to do something with affordable housing or service sites outside of a national programme, we are going to have to fund it.
“My approach would be to deal under the national programmes, and the Director of Housing [Tom Gilligan] has done a lot of work in respect of the case for Westport at the moment. The idea is, if we can get Westport over the line, we can get other locations over the line as well,” he said.
Mr Kelly added that he understands there are a number of initiatives coming out from Government over the next period of time in the area of affordable housing that will be very helpful in delivering housing for the county.

 

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