There are currently 1,400 people on the council’s housing waiting list, with 60 people so far this year having presented as homeless at County Hall.
The figures came up during a discussion on the housing crisis at the recent meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District, after a notice of motion raised by Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley on land banks owned by the council.
She said housing was one of the council’s biggest priorities, with 1,400 people on the waiting list for housing and the bulk of these looking in Portlaoise.
She revealed that 60 people have presented to the council as homeless so far this year, and last year, 2016, saw a total of 206.
The councillor went on to say that nobody could afford to rent in Portlaoise for the rent allowance of €420, or €610 for a couple, with the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom house €810.
“We have to prioritise purchasing land for social house and we need to start prioritising for those who are presenting on a daily basis as homeless,” she said, adding that voluntary bodies are not providing the houses necessary.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said that people were inclined to think the housing crisis was in Dublin and the big cities, but in fact it’s everywhere.
Someone in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment may still have to pay an extra €92 a week on top of that, then they will be taken off the waiting list to “camouflage the figures,” she said.
Said Cllr Willie Aird: “We’re trying to feed a hundred people with a loaf of bread,” he said.
He told the meeting of a young woman who has been on the waiting list for four years, a single mother with two children whose rent was set to go up from €550 to €900.
Cllr Noel Tuohy said he knew of a very sad case recently, a girl with a child with disabilities who was rejected for the housing list as she was a couple of grand over the limit.
“These are the new disadvantaged, these are the new poor in our society,” said Cllr Tuohy.
Cllr Jerry Lodge said that greed was an element. He spoke of Irish history where families were evicted from their homes and it suited the Irish to be critical of this as it was English landowners doing it.
“Why is it now Irish men and women doing it to other Irish men and women?” he said.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly, said that a special meeting would be called with the council executive to discuss the matter of social housing.