*Ennistymon. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Demand for social housing is exceeding supply in North and West Clare.
839 social housing units have been allocated and are occupied throughout the West Clare Municipal District, the majority in Kilrush Town (24%), Kilkee (13%), Ennistymon (11%), Miltown Malbay (10%) and Corofin (6%). A total of 33 units are unoccupied.
According to the housing department of Clare County Council, the biggest demand for housing has been experienced in Kilrush, Ennistymon and Kilkee. The net need for housing is 303 applicants with a further 370 households availing of housing assistance payment (HAP).
Capital projects have been stalled due to COVID-19 restrictions. This has delayed the construction of 27 social housing units in Miltown Malbay where were due for completion in the second half of next year. Two separate developments in Doonbeg with a combined total of 10 houses are to finish at either end of 2022.
Between the end of 2020 and 2022, 57 units of direct builds are to be completed in the West Clare MD. An application has also been submitted for a 30 unit development on Council owned lands in Ennistymon, approval has yet to be received from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Two-bedroom properties is the most common request for units in the West Clare MD, senior executive officer in the housing department, Siobhán McNulty noted. She felt a business case to secure funding for “larger house-types” needed to go before the Department. “The provision of larger properties within social housing developments remains challenging”.
Housing is one of the biggest issues faced by county councillors, Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) admitted. “The days of the potholes are gone,” he stated. The Kilrush representative believed larger families attempting to get housing were not appearing on the radar and said one five person family are currently residing in a two bedroom apartment “Christmas for several families I was aware of this year was for Santa to bring a home, that is very difficult,” Lynch outlined.
Movement of some families to other areas to find social housing is impacting on rural schools, Lynch cautioned. “There were concerns over summer from schools that may not reopen because one family may be missing”. He continued, “the link to our strategic thinking is broken. We need real action from Government. We have seen no action in Kilrush to help it recover”.
Engaging housing associations in a strategic way will help to tackle the numbers waiting for housing, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) maintained. “Some towns and villages would be glad to have an increase in population”. One family comprised of seven children and two adults were currently living in a three bedroom house, “that is nine people in a three bed house,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) highlighted.
West Clare’s potential to capitalise on remote working is dependent on housing, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) flagged. “Kilmihil cannot have any more housing, if Clare County Council won the lotto tomorrow morning and bought a site there, wastewater treatment would not be able for more houses”. He added, “We are talking about building 300 houses to tackle our housing list, that isn’t even mentioning people who want to come back to our communities, with the infrastructure in place we will never get there”.
“Demand is exceeding supply at the most basic level,” Director of Service, Leonard Cleary stated. Personnel on the housing list could consider relocating if an investment was made in vacant properties around the county, he advised. Wastewater capacity issues also pose problems for the local authority, he said.