Almost all of Laois County Council’s tenants are up to date on their rental payments, but the number paying back council housing loans has dropped considerably to just 81 per cent. Loan repayments fell behind by nearly €1 million last year.
In his report the council’s Independent auditor Michael O’Gorman found that there is “a signifant increase in arrears” for housing loans, going up from €627,000 in 2010 to €933,000 last year. His report on the council’s finances for 2011 was heard at last week’s county council meeting.
Cllr Alan Hand said it was encouraging to see the rental income increase, up from 93 per cent in 2010, praising council staff for their dealings with tenants.
“More worryingly is the household loans situation. There needs to be a system where they can be stretched over a longer time. There are a lot of two income families that are now (living on) one income,” said the Sinn Féin councillor.
“People took shared ownership loans which are now defunct. They bought affordable homes, and borrowed at the height of the boom. They should be protected,” he said.
At the end of 2011, the council faced a shortfall of rental payments of €281,000 for council housing in Laois, but nearly four times that amount in housing loans arrears, which stood at €933,000.
County Manager Peter Carey said the situation was difficult for householders, many who also owe their outstanding Household Charge payment.
“We need not cod ourselves, we are in a challenging and difficult situation. I am very aware of the difficulties facing householders. We have a dedicated team of staff who are doing an excellent job and I thank them for that,” he said.