Cold season for tenants

poor insulation in Laois County Council’s houses will mean another freezing and damp Christmas for hundreds of families across the county.

poor insulation in Laois County Council’s houses will mean another freezing and damp Christmas for hundreds of families across the county.

A government grant of €216,000 was given to the council this year towards bringing up its stock of houses to new BER standards, but they were told only to work on vacant houses between lets, leaving long term paid up tenants in the cold.

As fuel prices continue to rise, tenants in Laois told the Leinster Express that they are unable to afford to heat their houses.

One Lakeglen resident in Portlaoise has demanded the government “get the finger out” and look after its poor.

“This is not good enough. Please put the insulation in, we need it, we are paying our rent, these houses are supposed to be up to EU standard. Take it out of the big earners’ pockets, they won’t go suffering in the cold, in and out of hospital,” the woman said.

The council built a bedroom extension on to the woman’s house five years ago after her husband suffered a brain haemmorrhage.

“It is freezing in there, there is a smell of must and damp. When you take the clothes from the wardrobe they feel cold and damp,” she said, adding that the one radiator is too small to adequately heat the room.

“We have gas heating, it costs nearly €40 a week to keep the house warm. It’s not staying in the house, any heat you put in goes straight out,” she says.

She explained that she suffers from osteoarthritis, which gets more painful when she is cold, and asthma. She had two respiratory infection this year and her husband had pneumonia twice. The couple have paid their rent for the past 27 years.

“This isn’t good enough. If you owed big money they wouldn’t be long coming down,” she said.

Over in Portarlington’s Ballymorris Manor, tenant Paul Sweeney says the houses, built nine years ago, have just an inch of attic insulation, and unlagged pipes.

“There are a lot of elderly people living here, 70 and 80 years old, who can’t afford their gas. All they have is an open fire,” he said.

Paul lives on his own and lost his job a year ago.

“I had to get the gas out, and I had to fight to get in a gas meter, I come in and light the fire and keep the door closed, then an hour before bedtime I open the door to try heat the rest of the house. It is bitter cold upstairs, there’s a wind coming down the stairs. If they gave me a couple of rolls of insulation I’d do it myself,” says Paul.

Portlaoise Town Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald says the issue needs to be pushed, but gained no ground when she wrote recently to Minister of State for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan.

“The only ones we can do by law are re-lets. This should be addressed, there are a lot of old, ill and low income people in social housing. This would be money well spent, it would enable them not to spend as much on energy costs. I am writing to the Minister again to meet Dáil representatives,” she said.