Director of Services, Eoin Doyle, highlighted how the council provided 170 families with a new home in Cavan in 2020, and more than 200 the year before that.

One in three council houses refused

CRISIS Turn downs ‘complicate’ housing problems - council

Location, the size of a garden and lack of parking space, or even the colour of a kitchen, have all been cited as reasons given by people turning down offers of long-term, social housing accommodation from Cavan County Council.

Despite the continuing national shortage, one in three housing offers have been refused to date in 2021 in County Cavan. That includes 55 houses from the council’s own stock, and a further 14 belonging to approved housing bodies - 69 total.

The revelation emerged at last Monday’s monthly meeting of elected members after Director of Service, Eoin Doyle, was asked about a circular issued to local authorities regarding their engagement with ‘Housing for All’ - the government’s housing plan to 2030.

As part of that, the council has been given a deadline of December 17 to outline how it intends to deliver on the plan to increase the supply of housing locally in the next five years.

Earlier this year Cavan received almost €1.3 million to facilitate the return of more than 80 vacant units for social housing use. It was one of the largest single allocations in the country, and followed a time when the council had come under fire over the length of time and cost it took to refurbish and re-let properties.

According to the most recent figures available from the Department of Housing, Cavan County Council reclaimed 31 voids in the first four months of 2021, and seven more in the early second half of the year.

Between 2014 and 2020, more than €2.7 million has been spent by Cavan County Council returning just over 200 houses from ‘Void’ status.

The breakdown of that is 23 returns in 2014 (€349,137); 28 in 2015 (€307,018); 32 in 2016 (€307,530); 31 in 2017 (€303,112); 14 in 2018 (€270,779); nine in 2019 (€117,161); and 64 in 2020 (€1,045,638).

Mr Doyle said, though it was uncertain, he hoped the government would commit similar levels of investment to support the void return scheme in 2022. He said, in order to address “legacy issues” within the county, the council will “positively and energetically campaign” for that additional funding, and this case would be made to the Department for Housing in the coming months.

It was Fine Gael’s Madeleine Argue who shared information from a recent Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) meeting at which it was revealed 69 people had turned down the offer of permanent council housing so far in 2021. “We need to let the people know what the council is up against,” she said.

Agreeing that the issue regarding refusals “fundamentally complicates” the housing allocation process, Mr Doyle pointed out that people on the social housing list have two “valid” opportunities to refuse offers before their application process is suspended for a period of 12 months.

People must be placed on the local authority’s waiting list in order to qualify for housing assistance schemes such as rent allowance. Cllr Argue’s party colleague Val Smith critised certain people abusing the system in order to attain rental supports rather than accepting a housing offer.

“The only reason they’re on the housing list is to qualify for rent allowance,” he lambasted; while Fianna Fail’s Patricia Walsh urged that people be aware, where an offer of a house is turned down, that process needed to be restarted once again. All in all it could take up to three months.

“There is a timeframe in all of this,” she said, noting that the problem with supplying a house only exacerbates further when “rumour” spreads if a house lies idle for too long.

Despite the challenges, Mr Doyle welcomed the fact that the council had managed to provide 170 families with a new home in Cavan in 2020, and more than 200 the year before that.

“That effort is not being recognised,” he lamented.