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A view of the streetscape in Kilrush

New figures reveal extent of West Clare housing need

THE plight of a family of seven, living in a two-bedroom apartment has been highlighted by a West Clare councillor. Councillor Ian Lynch told the January Municipal District Meeting he knew of a number of families whose children had been hoping Santa would give them a new home for Christmas.

The Independent councillor secured figures showing a total of 704 people in the area on the housing list, with the greatest level of demand in Kilrush (135), Ennistymon (105), Kilkee (68), Corofin (61) and Miltown (53).

“In response, the only housing that we’ve come up with is 57 new houses and 33 vacant units,” he said. “Matching that reality with peoples’ expectations is a huge problem.

I have a number of families that are in desperate, desperate need of a large house. I have a five-child family in a two-bedroom apartment who are crying out for assistance. They recently applied for a three-bedroom house, but were told it wouldn’t suit them because it was too small, but there’s no other option there and it’s better than a two-bedroom apartment. Larger families are really at a disadvantage. There has to be some intervention. It’s a struggle for two parents and five kids in a two-bedroom apartment. If affects their schooling, it affects everything. It’s not right for kids to have to go through that. I appreciate the Housing Department are doing as much as they can and that we’re strapped by the amount of funding that we get, but we have to come up with a solution. It’s very difficult to hear that kids are going to school and saying they’re looking forward to their birthday because they’re going to get a house. At Christmas this year, for several families that I’m aware of, kids were hoping Santa would bring them a new home.”

The motion was seconded by Cathaoirleach of the district, Councillor Joe Garrihy.

Councillor Shane Talty also gave his support, noting that there were 303 applicants “unserved in any description” because they are not receiving the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). “We have a pipeline of 57 houses and mention of the potential in Ennisytmon for 30 houses, probably three years away,” he said. “The scale of the challenge in the district is huge. Here in Ennistymon, we’re inundated with requests. I’m aware of a family with seven children and two adults living in a three-bedroom house. That’s just one example. We have to design the schemes to take suit particular cases that are on the housing list.”

Councillor Cillian Murphy said the housing issue is particularly severe in light of the lack of serviced land. “The town of Kilmihil cannot have any more housing,” he said. “So with the best will in the world, if Clare County Council won the Lotto in the morning, they cannot put in housing there because the Waste Water Treatment will not accept it and there is no plan from Irish Water to upgrade the system.”

Director of Services for West Clare, Leonard Cleary noted that there are a number of vacant properties in rural areas. “There are people, in my view, on the list who could consider relocating. I’m excluding those who have commitments to schools. If people might be prepared to consider those locations, we might be able to take pressure off in places like Ennistymon and Kilrush, Miltown. It would mean that we’d have to invest in vacant properties to provide that flexible capacity and it’s a mind-shift for many, but it is something that could be possible for those that are not committed for employment or schooling reasons to the larger urban centres. We could work jointly with the Social Directorate, because we cannot continue to do the same thing, which is to try to supply in places where there are waste water capacity issues, and in towns where the funding flow will not keep up with demand.”

Councillor Joe Killeen suggested relaxing criteria for mortgage support so that more people could buy homes. “With 700 on the housing list and a small number of houses available and completed, the situation is a strain on the council and on councillors,” he said.

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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