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Councillor Gerry Flynn: “It is not rocket science to ensure that what councillors request is acted on.”

Annoyance at lack of funding for Clare council housing upgrades

A SHANNON-based councillor has described himself as “very annoyed” at the lack of adequate funding to upgrade local authority housing stock.
Councillor Gerry Flynn told the July meeting of the county council it is imperative that the authority make financial provision for the upgrades required to bring its vacant stock to a standard for rental, in order to assist applicants on the social housing list. The Independent councillor also requested that funding be provided for maintenance for existing tenancies in need of works.
Acknowledging the fact that, at the same meeting, he had been one of only two councillors to vote against leaving the Local Property Tax in Clare at 15% above the standard rate, Councillor Flynn insisted his stance was “in no way contradictory”.
“I received a brief form the Finance Department which outlines that there should be sufficient funds there,” he said. “However, €2m was siphoned off Housing to go to other funding streams. I’m very annoyed about that in the middle of a housing crisis. I want the money raised from rental, and so on, to be used to develop council stock and maintain what we have.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Donna McGettigan. “It will help alleviate the waiting list for housing,” The Sinn Féin members said. “It is a huge issue that we are all dealing with every day.”
In a written response, Anne Haugh, Director Social Development outlined the funding situation. “Clare County Council return in the region of 80 vacant properties to stock annually,” the reply noted. “To date funding for these works has come from the Department of Housing and in 2019 this council were second only to Dublin City Council in the scale of funding received to return vacant properties to stock. As the local authority sector and the Dept of Housing move towards a planned maintenance approach the funding model is being adjusted and the level of grant support for vacant/voids is declining. It is therefore inevitable that provision will need to be made from council’s own resources in forthcoming budgets to ensure that we continue to be able to return vacant properties to stock as they arise.
“The annual revenue allocation towards Housing Maintenance each year is utilised to respond to the circa 5000 maintenance requests received from existing tenants in occupied houses. This provision has traditionally been under significant pressure and it is anticipated that following the Covid restrictions there will be pent up demand for works. The Council is continuing to add to its stock numbers which is also impacting on the capacity of the budget to meet demand. The stock condition survey and cost estimates completed during the Planned Maintenance project has identified a projected spend requirement of approx. €1,600 per house per year to maintain standards.
“There is also an emerging need to ensure that our local authority estates as they are completed have an appropriate policy and the requisite funding in place for their upkeep and maintenance.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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