Wexford County Council is well ahead of its social house building target for the year as it moves from buying houses in the private market. 23 homes were due to be built this year, but 51 are now expected to be built by year’s end, while 95 houses are due to be built next year.
123 houses were acquired by the Council in 2017 compared to 90 this year and it is estimated that a further 30 houses will be bought by the local authority in 2020. Cllr Malcolm Byrne said a local authority buying houses doesn’t contribute to society as it means the council is competing with first time buyers. ‘I have a concern as while we have ramped up (our building) we are still very reliant on private housing bodies. I would prefer if we were building and maintaining our own.’
Director of Services for Economic Development Tony Larkin said: ‘It’s a sewerage issue. If it’s part a scheme that already has a satisfactory arrangement the answer would be larger sites. There is no reason why you couldn’t have three or four houses each with their own separate treatment systems.’
Cllr Carthy said that would not be appropriate. Mr O’Gorman said the council has to reduce its house acquisitions to an average of 13 per cent. ‘We had 123 last year, the second highest in the country, and we have 80 this year. The plan is to get down to 20 to 25 by 2021.’
Cllr Carthy called for a rural Wexford social housing policy or to continue with acquiring houses as people need to be accommodated in rural County Wexford. Cllr Larkin said he has met with the staff and the councils trying to target specific houses with a view to bringing them back as social houses. ‘We have done three or four and we have another range of them before Christmas. We will prioritise this for every district.’
Mr O’Gorman said the council will be looking to Respond for the vacant units in Westlands, where seven housing units have become available. ‘They could come no stream quite quickly,’ he said. Cllr Michael Sheehan said some houses are being left idle for over 50 weeks once the council has bought them, asking for a full report.
Cllr George Lawlor said the council spends tens of thousands of euros repairing its social houses. ‘I really do think we are going over the top in terms of the amount we spend on refurbishment of the houses. Contrast this to when we lease houses from a landlord. The onus appears to go onto the new tenant to make sure that everything is in order.”