seven Portlaoise homes handed back by owners unable to afford their council mortgages are to be sold to a government housing agency.
Clúid are buying the lot for just over half a million euros, and will now rent them back to people on the council’s waiting list.
The sale was given a reluctant green light by councillors last week, who sympathised with the homeowners who had handed back their keys.
Cllr Willie Aird said Laois County Council had a boomtime policy of encouraging their renters to take out ‘affordable’ mortgages.
“This wasn’t anybody deciding to leave, they had no option. This had been going on for months, with threatening letters from solicitors. Those houses were too dear at the time. The council called in people with jobs and told them ‘you are in a position to buy an affordable home’. The majority of those people are now out of jobs. Remember that a lot of tears have been shed. As a public representative I abhor what we have to do today,” he said.
“We are doing what the British did in the 1800’s, evicting people. They were encouraged by the banks to buy, we are bailing out the banks that encouraged them, and evicting them,” said Cllr Pat Bowe.
Several cllrs suggested the need for a scheme where people could carry on living in their house, switching to paying rent. County Manager Peter Carey said these homeowners had already left, but agreed that a letter should be sent seeking the scheme.
“This is a very difficult situation but it is very clear, some comments suggest you are dealing with repossessions, that is not the case. We now have these vacant properties, our only choice is to dispose of them or put them on the open market, in which likelihood we would be left carrying the cost. We all have sympathy for these people. You are not helping them by not supporting this. These houses will go back to people in need of houses, on our list,” he said.
Cllr Mary Sweeney was one of several councillors who had helped people to get those mortgages.
“House prices inflated and unfortunately people were sucked into buying, I have been in houses where I’ve encouraged them to give them back, rather than be in hock for the rest of their lives. People have been relieved to be let off huge mortgages. There is no way out of this one, but there are decent people in Clúid and Respond, move these on and let other people get houses,” she said.
The houses being sold to Clúid are 9 Collier’s View €78,000, 11 Collier’s View €78,000, 23 Collier’s View €80,000, 45 Maryborough Crescent €85,000, a second floor apartment in Bridle Walk, Kilminchy for €60,000, 21 Buttercup Avenue, Esker Hills €90,000 and 41 Carmody Way, Fairgreen €65,000.
Mortgages are still outstanding, but Gerry Murphy from the council’s finance section said they would not be chasing the previous owners for debts.
“Legally they will still own the council the balance. Some have made an agreement to pay arrears. Generally speaking, we won’t be following through the courts, they haven’t got any money,” he said.