Housing and the provision of sustainable housing solutions is a priority for Mayo County Council. It’s about changing people’s lives for the better and providing solutions to the many challenges that currently exist in the housing market says Tom Gilligan, Director of Services at Mayo County Council.
Our aim is to continue to deliver new social housing to meet the needs of people on our housing waiting list. In 2018, Mayo County Council did that and delivered on its overall housing targets as set out by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and, in actual fact, exceeded them. A critical part in achieving our targets was the on-going commitment and support of the Council’s Management Team, our own housing department, including our own in-house team of architects and the continued support of our elected members. In 2018, as regards our build, leasing and acquisition target we exceeded our target by 12 per cent and the goal and ambition this year is to do better again. We have a very strong pipeline of delivery coming on stream. Our ambition for 2020 and beyond is to keep it going and to continue to deliver while all the time knowing that the people on our housing list are the primary focus and the need to find a sustainable housing solution for them and their families. That is what drives us, and our primary goal and ambition is to deliver for our citizens.
In March 2019, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy T.D visited Mayo and got to see first-hand the good work being done by the Council. During his visit the Minister and his officials from the Department got to see both completed and on-going housing projects right across the County. It was a constructive day and opportunity for the Minister to see all the great work we are doing here in Mayo. He was indeed very complimentary of all our housing schemes and we were delighted of the opportunity to take him around and to see the impressive work we are doing on the ground, including one of our largest construction projects and that is the provision of 27 housing units in Swinford, which is expected to be completed in 2020.
“Every day we hear a story as to why a property is vacant and each one is unique to that particular unit. We know that there isn’t one solution to sort out all the problems, but we want to work with property owners and to help them get their property back into use.”
A significant challenge in Mayo along with other parts of the country is the increased level of homelessness in the county. Currently Mayo County Council is involved, along with other stakeholders in the region in finalising the 2020–2022 West Region Homelessness Action Plan. This Plan set outs a strategic framework to address the prevention and reduction of homelessness; provision of services and assistance to those who are homeless; and the promotion of effective co-ordination by homeless service authorities and providers in the administrative areas of Galway City and Counties Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. Since 2016 the West Region has experienced a 153 per cent increase in the number of adults accessing homeless services through emergency accommodation. This is the highest increase of any region in the country.
The West Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2022 aims to put a strategic framework in place for the delivery of homeless services at a regional level. Local Action Plans for each county area in the West Region will subsequently be developed in line with the West Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020–2022. The Mayo Local Action Plan will outline detailed specific actions relevant to addressing homelessness at county level and in particular will focus on five key themes: prevention; support; protection; progression; and governance. The situation regarding homelessness is challenging and could be a lot worse if it wasn’t for the on-going hard work of our Tenancy Sustainment Office in helping to prevent people entering homelessness.
Another factor in the county which is an issue is the number of properties available to rent. Throughout 2019 we are seeing only limited properties available for rent and this is putting more and more pressure on the rental sector. During the month of November, we only saw approximately 100 properties available throughout the entire county.
Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, deals with utilising housing stock and here in Mayo, we have a significant number of vacant properties, similar to other parts of the country and we see huge potential in getting them back into use. It’s all about reusing what we have and maximising the use of our housing stock. Apart from the obvious benefits of housing, economic and climate change, bringing vacant homes back into use reduces the pressure for new housing developments. Although bringing vacant homes back into use will help alleviate the housing crisis it is recognised that there are so many varied reasons why a property is vacant. Every day we hear a story as to why a property is vacant and each one is unique to that particular unit. We know that there isn’t one solution to sort out all the problems, but we want to work with property owners and to help them get their property back into use. Mayo County Council developed a Vacant Homes Action Plan and in addition set-up VacantHomes.ie, an innovative web portal on behalf of the local government sector.
VacantHomes.ie, which was recently revamped with additional functionality is providing key assistance to Vacant Home Officers now working in each local authority. VacantHomes.ie is available to assist local authorities in providing advice, assistance and can work with property owners every step of the way in bringing a property back into use. To date, the vacant homes website has over 3,200 properties registered with the province of Leinster showing the highest percentage recorded at 48 per cent, Munster has 36 per cent, Connacht 13 per cent and Ulster 3 per cent. The number of properties brought or in the process of being brought back into use is nearly 300. Bringing a vacant home back into use can change people’s lives for the better and it’s so important that owners of vacant properties come forward as there are schemes available, such as the Buy and Renew and the Repair and Leasing Scheme which will help them get the property back into use. Our Chief Executive, Peter Hynes talks about Mayo as a County that is proud, prosperous, sustainable and inclusive and by utilising existing housing stock, through VacantHomes.ie and along with our ambitious capital build programme, we know we can deliver on this vision for the benefit of this generation and future generations to come.
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