Conniberry Way in Portlaoise, council estate under construction but few workers will qualify to rent one.
Few workers in Laois can qualify to rent a council house, because they probably earn too much, even if they earn the minimum wage.
The low income threshold permitted to qualify for a council house is “unjust and unfair”, all seven Laois Fianna Fáil councillors have declared.
Led by Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, they have asked Laois County Council to request the Department of Housing to “immediately address the unjust and unfair income threshold for people trying to access social housing”.
“In Laois, if you get the minimum wage and you claim Family Income Supplement, you won’t qualify to get on the housing list. That is total injustice,” she said.
A family of two parents and three children earning €540 cannot qualify for a council house, Cllr Fitzgerald said.
“If they pay rent, take €200 a week out of that, they are left with a family and €340 to live on. How are people expected to pay bills, rent and keep a family going? It is very unfair. You have to be earning under €440 (to qualify for a council house), that’s barely more than social welfare. People who are willing to go to work, have no chance of getting a house, or a loan for a house,” she said.
Cllr Noel Tuohy of the Labour Party said that working couples are being turned down for a housing loan. He laid the problems for housing at the door of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“You have people who want their own house, who want to borrow and pay it back, and they are not allowed. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are in power, that’s where it has to be dealt with,” he said.
FF Cllr Paddy Bracken reminded him that the Labour party had five years in government in recent years.
“You didn’t change the bands then,” he said.
“We were paying Brian's (Cowen) pension,” Cllr Tuohy countered.
“That’s a cheap shot,” Cllr Bracken retorted.
Cllr Bracken said decent people can’t access a home, and are paying “huge rents” across Laois.
“Unless we get into programmes of building houses, we are never going to address this. To get a loan of €170k, people have to raise €17k, a lifetime wouldn’t get that together,” he said.
Fine Gael Cllr Willie Aird meanwhile said there was no point putting down a motion.
“The Minister should be made responsible for this rule, or bring in our three Oireachtas representatives. Turning back the clock, it was never a question of income, it was on a needs basis, if you were living in a mobile or with your parents,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is concern among councillors at the cost to 324 tenants who may be topping up rental payments to private landlords.
The HAP rent supplement scheme is administered by the Council, but there is no figure on how much extra tenants are paying. Council Housing Officer Michael Rainey admitted the figure is unknown.
“Is the tenant topping up the rent? I don’t know that, I do hear some concerns,” he said, during a report on latest housing figures to Laois County Council’s January meeting.
He suggests discussing it at the council’s next SPC housing committee meeting.
“We can discuss what is happening underground, and bring it forward. They might be dipping in to what is feeding their and clothing their children. It is a very grey area, people are suffering,” Mr Rainey said.
324 Laois people are getting a HAP housing payment towards the cost of their rent to private landlords.