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Councillor Donna McGettigan

Councillors appeal to Minister to declare ‘housing emergency’

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HOUSING dominated debate at the July meeting of the local authority, with members resolving to write to Minister Darragh O’Brien, asking him to declare a housing emergency. 

A motion from Councillor Donna McGettigan called on the minister to “introduce an immediate moratorium on evictions” for a period of three months, and to increase income thresholds for social housing support. 

“I saw this motion being passed by Limerick City and County Council and brought it here,” she said. “This is now an issue affecting all social classes. There are just 13 properties available online to rent long-term in Clare. A two-bed apartment will cost €1,000 a month and that’s just not affordable. We are increasingly seeing families having to take in family members and couch surfing is the norm.”

The Sinn Féin member accepted that local authority staff are doing their best and she urged her Council colleagues to write to the minister seeking more support. 

“The homeless action team are doing their best,” she said. “We now need an immediate ban on evictions to allow time for housing development to keep pace with demand. Those who are trying to buy are not getting enough mortgage support. They are being continually being outbid and are in desperation.

“Clare last year saw a 14% rise in cost of renting. On Clare FM, economist Ronan Lyons was clear that supply issues are putting rents up. I recently got a letter in door from NUI Galway, asking to provide rooms in houses for students. That’s how bad the situation is.”

The motion was seconded by Councillor PJ Ryan and Cathaoirleach Tony O’Brien agreed that the Council would write to minister.”

The issue was debated at a time when the Council’s July Management Report shows a total of 2,854 now on the social housing waiting list. The report also noted that demand for housing this summer is unprecedented.

“Traditionally the summer period would bring a reduction in demand for services, this is not the case in 2022 with sustained high demand for services,” the report stated. “This is reflective of the increased cost of living and challenges for those on fixed incomes.”

Against that backdrop, Councillor Gerry Flynn also called on Minister O’Brien to take action. In a motion, which received cross party support, he called for change to the very low income thresholds in Clare outlined in the The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011.

“We are very disadvantaged here in Clare,” he noted. “A single person cannot earn more than €25,000 to get support. A family of two adults and two children, cannot have above €27,500. Meanwhile, in Limerick, they can earn €33,000. A single person can earn €30,000. There are huge anomalies. In this county, a considerable amount of PAYE workers cannot access housing support. The thresholds were set 11 years ago and are out of touch with economic realities. 

I have been working on housing for a long time and have seen how incomes have ebbed and flowed. The average house costs €250,000 to €300,000 and that is out of reach for many.”

Councillor McGettigan said she was fully supportive, agreeing that income thresholds should be raised. 

The Cathaoirleach described the situation in Clare “disgraceful, compared to whats happening over the bridge”. Councillor Johnny Flynn said the situation was “unfair and unjust”, while Councillor Ryan said the government seemed to be “trying to victimise County Clare”.

Councillor Cillian Murphy described the situation as “discriminatory”. “I have ten families on my working list at the minute looking for housing in West Clare because being they are being evicted on September 1,” he said. “This is a catastrophe that impacts on our communities.”

The situation was described by Councillor John Crowe as “completely unjust”. 

Councillor Ann Norton said the issue was now affecting all ages. “Something has to be done,” she said. “I 100% believe Oireachtas members should be put under pressure on this.”

Responding to the debate, Councillor Gerry Flynn said he had invited the housing minister to address members several times. “We need to articulate to him the issues on the ground,” he said. “People are losing houses. Landlords no longer want to rent houses, they want to sell them. Renting them is no longer attractive. The government could do something to bring them back into the market. 

People from greater Dublin area are now working remotely and might like to live in Clare. That is heating up the housing market. I regularly get calls from people who have notices to quit and they cannot go to Council because they dont meet criteria. I believe the policy can be tweaked to offer some sort of financial support.”

Fiona McGarry
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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 The University of 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.

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 The University of 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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