Laois Travellers to grow and need more homes
Forty more homes for Laois Traveller families are promised by the council within the next five years, in its new Traveller accommodation plan which it is obliged to have adopted by September.
County councils are also obliged under the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998 to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers normally living in its area.
Laois County Council's draft Traveller Accommodation Programme for 2019 to 2024 estimates that Laois now has 196 Traveller households, counted in November 2018.
However the numbers could be higher, the report said.
“It must be noted that the Traveller populationcan be underreported, as many Travellers do not disclose their Traveller identity, often for fear of discrimination,” it said.
It estimates the number to rise, as Laois' population rises due to its “prime location” with “improved roads and motorway networks”.
“The projected need indicates accommodation need for 238 households during the duration of the programme,” the report said.
Of the 40 extra homes, 37 will be in new or vacated social houses, and three will be new units built on the Oakpark halting site in Clonminam, Portlaoise, on request by an extended family of Travellers in the one unit occupied there.
The report said that most Laois Travellers, 65%, are in permanent accommodation such as social houses, Traveller Group Housing, halting site or are owner occupiers.
15% of housesholds are in private rented accommodation. 10% share accommodation with family or friends and 10% live in roadside caravans or in homeless emergency accommodation.
It expects that most Traveller housing applicants want standard social housing rather than halting sites or Traveller Group housing.
The report analysed the preferences of a sample 49 Laois Traveller housing applications.
A quarter of the applicants live in caravans or homeless emergency accommodation, “and can be considered to have very unstable living conditions”.
43% live in private rented accommodation, 29% live with family or friends, and 2% live in temporary institutions.
43 of that 49 requested houses. Four want units in the halting site.
Two asked for Traveller Group Housing, but this is not planned. The report said that 33 such units were planned in previous report but only 6 were built.
This was either because “the intended tenants had left the administrative area, had chosen another accommodation option”, or the council had difficulty finding suitable land.
Laois has two Traveller Group Housing sites, in Mountmellick (below) and in Portarlington.
The report says that the council will not accommodate Travelling families temporarily living in Laois, or Travellers who already have a home in another county.
“The council will not accept responsibility for providing accommodation for Traveller families (including traders) who from time to time move into the area. Also the council will decline to assist those applicants who have adequate accommodation available to them in another local authority area,” the report said.
Passing Travellers do not stay in Laois’ only halting site, nor do they stay long in Laois it said.
“Most encampments of transient Traveller families have been relatively small and short-term stays. Whilst the existing halting site in Portlaoise has not been used for short-term accommodation of transient Traveller households, a second site in Laois is not currently required,” the report said.
The report plans action on temporary dwellings stopping in public places.
“The council has a procedure to ensure a co-ordinated response.”
It also says the council operates an Anti-Social Behaviour strategy for council owned dwellings and estates.
“Each tenant has a responsibility to ensure that the terms of the tenancy agreement are met in full”.
Laois has a younger than average Traveller population. The largest number of Travellers in Laois are aged under 14 according to Census 2016.
The report says that 58% of Travellers usually living in Ireland are aged under 25, compared with 33% of the general population.
It lists statistics showing differences between the ethnic group and the general Irish population.
Less than 1,000 of Ireland's estimated 31,000 Travellers are aged 65 and over.
23% of Travellers aged 15 to 24 are married, compared to 1% of the general population. 80% of the 10,653 Travellers in the labour force are unemployed.
One in eight Travellers stated they were unable to work due to a disablility, almost three times the rate of the general population. More than one in four Traveller households have six or more people, compared to less than one in 20 in the state overall.
Councillors were given the 20 page document to read over summer and adopt it at the September meeting.