Laois County Council HQ, the first port of call for Laois people who find themselves without accommodation.
Six people presented as homeless to Laois County council reception in just one morning last week, with 1,300 still on the waiting list.
The number of homeless presentations came on the same day that Laois County Council announced it is ahead of target with 122 new council homes due for delivery by the end of 2018.
The local authority expects to “far exceed” the 2018 target set for Laois by Rebuilding Ireland of 76 units.
Portlaoise Cllr Willie Aird received the housing update from a motion he had tabled, but he pointed out the continuing housing shortage, as well as the number of people waiting in the reception.
“We used to be able to say to people on the list, ‘you’ll get a house in 12 or 18 months’, now people are seven years waiting on the list. I think there were six homeless in the foyer today, they were only gone at 2pm,” Cllr Aird said.
“I acknowledge the good work that’s been done, but we have to keep it at the forefront,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer John Mulholland said they will exceed their target of 627 new homes by 2021.
“627 is a minimum target. We are encouraged to exceed it and we will,” he said.
He said that of some 1,300 names on the Laois council waiting list, half are single or one parent families, for which “compact accommodation in towns” was needed.
Lack of land owned by the council is an issue.
“We advertised three times for land availability but that hasn’t yielded any results, we will continue to look,” the CEO said.
Mr Rainey said 2019 will be a busy year for construction.
“We have to get through the planning stages this year but 2019 should have multiple sites in construction, for delivery in 2020,” he said.
Over 500 people are receiving a Housing Assistance Payment to pay for rent in private accommodation in Laois. An extra 13 per week have been added recently Mr Rainey said, while agreeing with Cllr John Joe Fennelly's suggestion that rental properties are “drying up”.
“There is a shortage of private rent accommodation in Portlaoise. We won’t be able to solve it just by construction and acquisition. We need the private sector to provide good quality rented accommodation,” he said.
Cllr Mary Sweeney had sympathy for the housing staff as well as the homeless.
“I do expect they are working very hard but the population explosion is unprecedented. It is a mammoth task. Of course I feel incredible sympathy for homeless. But young people don’t want to stay at home, they want their own house, which is slightly unrealistic,” she said.
Cllr Tom Mulhall said that “a lot of people are in limbo”, that do not earn enough to qualify for a mortgage, yet earn too much to qualify for renting a council house.
So far in Laois this year, 72 homes have been delivered to new council tenants. Another 52 “are at contract stage and will be delivered by the end of 2018”.
Homes added to the Laois stock this year include 33 built in Portlaoise, 17 bought, 22 delivered by Approved Housing Bodies, and a further 57 from housing bodies at nomination/final contract stage.
The council plans to find extra homes by buying them only when this does not compete with public bids, by direct building, buying turnkey private developments off the plans, and from Approved Housing Bodies.