New Dun­leer hous­ing scheme has been 14 years in the plan­ning

Mid Louth Independent - - OPINION -

Dear Sir,

THE stag­na­tion in the pro­vi­sion of” So­cial Hous­ing” in Louth and in­deed coun­try­wide is ex­tremely hard to be­lieve and re­flects badly on the Gov­ern­ment and those keep­ing it in power.

The re­cent re­port show­ing around ninety” Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Houses” un­oc­cu­pied in Louth is just some­thing that def­i­nitely should not be hap­pen­ing.

Many of these houses could be brought back into use very quickly and with­out cost­ing an arm and a leg.

But we are told that the money is just not there ! again a state­ment that flies in the face of ev­ery­thing we see hap­pen­ing around us in Gov­ern­ment and the Econ­omy.

In my own Vil­lage of Dun­leer the long promised eighty” New So­cial Hous­ing Units” have still not com­menced after four­teen years in the plan­ning.

With an ap­prox­i­mate Four­teen Mil­lion Euro spent on land ac­qui­si­tion in 2014 on the Dun­leer site and with re­pay­ments on the amounts bor­rowed from the” Hous­ing Fi­nanceA­gency” kick­ing in a year or two ago, the Dun­leer Site has be­come a huge li­a­bil­ity for Louth Co. Coun­cil along with other sites across the County .

The coun­cil has had zero in­come from the point of view of rents from the houses which should have been built by now.

The Legacy of pre­vi­ous man­age­ment in the County back dur­ing the” Celtic Tiger “days has played havoc on the Coun­cil’s Fi­nances presently.

The most re­cent ex­am­ple be­ing the Fi­asco of the Drogheda Park­ing Charges of last year, where the prob­lem was traced back to sloppy man­age­ment in the draw­ing up of the” Bye Laws” in 2005.

Back in Oc­to­ber 2015 the” League of Credit Unions” in Ire­land of­fered the Min­is­ter for Fi­nance the grand sum of 5 Bil­lion Eu­ros of savers money to be in­vested into” So­cial Hous­ing Projects” coun­try­wide.

Whilst the” Cen­tral Bank” seems to have made some move with re­gard to widen­ing the pow­ers of the” Credit Unions” the Gov­ern­ment have not as yet grasped the spirit of what the League were try­ing to achieve when the of­fer was made orig­i­nally to the then Min­is­ter “Michael Noo­nan”.

Part of the logic was that nearly all of the oc­cu­pants of Coun­cil Houses or fam­i­lies on the Lo­cal Au­thor­ity hous­ing lists are mem­bers of Credit Unions.

There­fore there would be a real feel good fac­tor in know­ing that their own sav­ings and the sav­ings of their friends and neigh­bours were help­ing in the quest for hous­ing both lo­cally and na­tion­ally .

The Credit Union, in my area are ad­ver­tis­ing 100M Eu­ros in loans to its mem­bers presently, in an ef­fort to ex­pand their Loan Book.

Most peo­ple ap­ply­ing will prob­a­bly be look­ing for loans to buy cars and some house im­prove­ments and hol­i­days etc. but still prob­a­bly lit­tle or no in­volve­ment in the House Pur­chase area, which is a great pity.

Credit Unions were a huge Move­ment for or­di­nary peo­ple dur­ing the Six­ties, Seven­ties and Eight­ies and they mush­roomed up all over the Coun­try un­til ev­ery Parish had one.

Founded on the prin­ci­ples of co-op­er­a­tion and for the bet­ter­ment of the lo­cal com­mu­nity many peo­ple are now say­ing that these prin­ci­ples are be­ing eroded and the sense of com­mu­nity has suf­fered in the merg­ing of in­di­vid­ual Credit Unions into big­ger en­ti­ties.

In fact some peo­ple have talked about mov­ing their sav­ings from the Credit Union to An Post where along with the or­di­nary sav­ings ac­count they have short term sav­ings in Guarn­teed Gov­ern­ment Bonds on of­fer, tax free on ma­tu­rity. Also the main­stream Banks are an at­trac­tion as well where they have Debit and Credit Card fa­cil­i­ties avail­able .

What once was a pow­er­ful move­ment” Credit Unions” are now caught on the back foot fight­ing for their own space and re­gret­tably may be em­bark­ing on the road to be­com­ing just an­other heart­less player in the crazy Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices World of to­day .

Whilst ef­forts by the League to as­sist in So­cial Hous­ing from the top are very wel­come I think they should be look­ing at the grass roots side of it as well.

Lo­cal Credit Unions with sup­port from the League should be at­tempt­ing to re­gain their foothold in com­mu­ni­ties by help­ing to fi­nance in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies who are try­ing very hard to find them­selves a home .

Apart from the fact that they have the net­work to cre­ate hous­ing co-op­er­a­tives na­tion­wide they could in­volve them­selves in other ways with­out any new leg­is­la­tion.

Sim­ple ex­am­ple would be where we have a Coun­cil House boarded up in a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity and ap­pli­cants in­ter­ested then the Coun­cil Hous­ing Of­fice could iden­tify the Fam­ily or In­di­vid­ual that are most de­serv­ing and call them round the ta­ble.

As­sum­ing it is the case that the Coun­cil do not have the funds to carry out the im­prove­ments needed and may have to wait six or nine months for fund­ing from the Depart­ment, then this is where the Credit Union could play it’s part .

A sin­gle re­pay­ment Loan for the amount to com­plete the works to the house could be raised from the Lo­cal Credit Union and works car­ried out in a num­ber of weeks as is the case in lots of these sit­u­a­tions.

There could be a clause in the agree­ment to al­low the new ten­ant and per­haps their friends or fam­ily to carry out some of the works on the house in trades which they are qual­i­fied .

With the ob­vi­ous stip­u­la­tion that the new ten­ant could not take up res­i­dence un­til the house is deemed live­able.

The in­ter­est re­pay­ments on the Loan would not start un­til the first week of res­i­dency there­fore the first pay­ment of rent to the Coun­cil.

The Loan prin­ci­pal could be paid off in full when the Coun­cil get their draw down of funds from the Depart­ment.

It is not right to have good boarded up homes be­long­ing to the Tax Payer in our midst with the big­gest Com­mu­nity Move­ment cre­ated in our life time , dan­gling mil­lions to its mem­bers .

We should dig deep, like our par­ents did in the cre­ation of the Credit Unions and try and make a dif­fer­ence in our life time and res­ur­rect the old prin­ci­ples and con­cepts of the great Co. Op­er­a­tive Move­ments that once were very strong in this coun­try . Re­gards Hugh D Con­lon, Dun­leer Louth PPN

Pic­tured at the re­cent na­tional mid­wifery con­fer­ence: 100 Years of Reg­u­la­tion and De­vel­op­ment of Mid­wifery in Ire­land is Ms. Una O Brien, Clin­i­cal Mid­wife Spe­cial­ist in Teenage Preg­nancy, Ma­ter­nity Unit, Our Lady of Lour­des Hos­pi­tal. Una is seen re­ceiv­ing First Prize for her Win­ning Poster “Small Changes That Have Made A Dif­fer­ence to our Teenage Preg­nancy Ser­vice” from the Min­is­ter for Health Mr Si­mon Har­ris. Una also re­ceived first prize for the same poster at the INMO All Ire­land An­nual Mid­wifery Con­fer­ence

Mayor Frank God­frey, Drogheda Bor­ough Dis­trict, pic­tured with San­dra Okome, Re­source Of­fi­cer for sui­cide pre­ven­tion Louth & Meath, Paddy Don­nelly, Di­rec­tor of Ser­vices, Louth County Coun­cil and Elias Mim­bila, Louth County Coun­cil, in St. Do­minick’s Park, Drogheda, at the re­cent tree plant­ing cer­e­mony to re­mem­ber those who have died by sui­cide.

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