WITH 1,343 people on Laois County Council’s house waiting list, 11 homes in Mountrath have been left vacant for the past three years.
The situation has been described as “scandalous” by deputy Brian Stanley, who claimed: “Not one bit of work has been done to prepare them for occupancy.”
He said that three years ago, Oaklee Housing Association bought the houses in Mountrath’s Cluainín estate. These were to be used to house some of those on Laois County Council’s house waiting list.
The Portlaoise-based TD added: “Two years ago, the Department of Housing and Local Government gave final approval to use them for social housing. Laois County Council’s role would be to nominate tenants from its lengthy waiting list and pay an annual rental subvention to Oaklee, which would retain ownership.
“What has happened in Cluainín in Mountrath again raises serious questions over government policy of farming out the responsibility for providing social housing to housing associations.
“A number of these agencies have sprung up in recent years and while some, such as Respond and Clúid, operate efficiently, others do not. Councils have been sidelined and their only role is to nominate tenants from their waiting lists to the approved housing bodies. This is bad policy, as councils have a local presence and vast experience in providing and managing housing stock.
“I am confident that if these houses were under the control of Laois County Council that they would have been tenanted two years ago.
“There is a growing waiting list for housing in Mountrath, with over 100 households in need of housing in the area, yet these fine three-bedroomed semi-detached houses lie vacant.
“A modest amount of work is needed to have them ready for occupancy. While there has been a small amount of damage caused by vandalism, this should in no way prevent their speedy completion.
“I have raised this with Laois County Council but as it doesn’t own the houses, it has no direct means of making progress. I have also questioned this with Oaklee and have not yet received a response.”
When asked to explain why the houses have been lying idle in the estate for the past three years, the housing body spokesperson said: “Oaklee purchased the 11 properties located in Cluainín Estate, Mountrath in November 2015 as part of a receiver sale.
“Following the purchase of the units, an architect was appointed to oversee the completion. A detailed inspection revealed a number of critical issues with the as-constructed timber-frame units. The delay in allocating these properties is unfortunate, however, Oaklee must ensure tenant safety and compliance with the building-control legislation.
“Laois County Council has been kept informed of the issues with this development throughout 2016 and we anticipate work on the units will be completed in June 2017, when we look forward to welcoming new tenants.”
Reacting to Oaklee spokesperson’s comments, deputy Stanley said: “The only work they have done is to erect a security fence across the roadway in the estate and the car parking area. This has prevented the public areas of the estate being completed and taken in charge by the council, as there are road markings and parking bays still to be marked.
“Oakley has dragged its heels with these social houses, while the housing situation in Mountrath continues to become more critical.”