CEO clashes with councillors over social housing

Eugene Cummins, the chief executive of Roscommon County Council, has clashed with local councillors over the county’s social housing situation.

  Mr. Cummins intimated that, although there are regularly more then 600 people on the county’s housing list, the problem was not as bad as it appeared, and that there was no demand for housing in some towns and villages.

  These claims were sharply rejected by Fianna Fáil councillors Rachel Doherty and Orla Leyden, in particular.

  Mr. Cummins’ intervention was prompted by criticism of the Government’s provision of social housing in its term in office.

  “I would like to clarify that, in November 2014, the Government made available the largest provision of monies in the history of the state for the provision of social housing – several billion (euro),” he said.

  “In June 2015, because of the amount of units that were built, there was a substantial amount of properties to be acquired and local authority acquired them. In 2015, the state spent €690 million on properties for local authorities.”

  He also said that thousands of properties were leased nationwide, and that the council had been provided with a “considerable amount of money” to address ‘voids’, which are vacant units lying idle around the county.

  Playing down the extent of the social housing problem in Co. Roscommon, he said: “We have some towns and villages where there isn’t actually the need.

  “When one considers the significant number of people that are on the list, it is hard to imagine that. Not everyone on the list is there to get a social house. Some people are on the list for other reasons.

  “And people who are genuinely on the list and want to avail of social housing, they are quite specific about where they want them.”

  Mr. Cummins said that one of the reasons why people were on the housing list was because it was compulsory in order to claim rent supplement, which is payable to people who rent accommodation privately.

  He also said that Roscommon had one of the highest refusal rates in the country for social housing properties.

  “In excess of 40 per cent of potential tenants who are offered housing, refuse,” said Mr. Cummins.

  His comments drew a sharp response from Cllr. Doherty, who said that she was “surprised” by his remarks.

  “The way that you are presenting that answer there, you would nearly think that we should say to the Department: ‘Sure, we don’t need the money at all. We don’t have a housing need,’” she said.

  In response to the CEO’s claim that social housing was a “frustrating problem” for council staff, she said: “It’s downright frustrating for the person who is waiting for four or five years to be offered a house by Roscommon County Council.”

  Cllr. Leyden challenged Mr. Cummins’ claim that the Government had pumped significant money into the area.

  “The CEO said that it was the largest allocation in the history of social housing allocations from any government back in 2014,” she said.

  “There have been two social houses built in Roscommon town in the last five years since Fine Gael were in government. How can that be the best ever allocation of any government in the history of the state?”