The Housing Agency has published statistics from the Social Housing Assessments for 2019, claiming that the number of households on the waiting list decreased by 3,165 (4.4%) compared to the previous assessment in June 2018. Wicklow County Councillor Mags Crean (Independent councillor, Greystones MD) claims that these figures are distorted:
“The figure reported for Wicklow shows that 2,523 households are in need of social housing but this only represents 60% of the number in need of housing, which was actually recorded as 4,230 in the Chief Executive report for Wicklow in June 2019 when the assessment was conducted. The national data excludes HAP tenancies so the figures are not a true reflection of the actual number on the social housing list”.
Cllr. Crean maintains that the Housing Assistance Payment is meant to be a temporary measure:
“A HAP tenancy does not mean that a person’s housing need has been met so these households should be included in the assessment. We have to remember that HAP replaced rent supplement, which was a short term housing measure. I am meeting families on a weekly basis that are worried about tenure security with HAP as landlords are selling. Also, with rents rising there are fewer properties available within HAP limits especially in areas like Greystones and Kilcoole. This forces people to move many miles away from family, support networks and schools. The private rented sector is not the solution to meet long-term housing needs”.
The issue of affordable housing must also be taken on as a matter of urgency and Crean states that:
“There are also the households not included in these assessment figures who don’t quality for council housing but who also can’t afford to buy in the private sector. Local Authorities need to provide affordable housing. I am a strong advocate for public housing for all and that means taking action on affordable housing in addition to social housing. Affordable housing is a new policy area for councils but it needs to be treated as a priority.
Working people can’t afford a home to rent or buy; now that is a basic right in a developed country. At my first housing policy committee in Wicklow, I requested that affordable housing be placed on the agenda for the next housing policy meeting and I look forward to progressing this issue, which is now on the agenda for the 17th December”.