Council Seek Review in Housing Policy To Aid Most Vulnerable

By Seamus Whelehan

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Cork County Council are to seek a radical overhaul of criteria for those participating in its housing and rental schemes.
The authority say it will request a change to the thresholds set out by legislation for those eligible for social housing and the Housing Assistance Payment rental scheme.
The move comes following a request by Cllr Chris O’Sullivan who said slight fluctuations in salary were temporarily pushing housing applicants above the income limit.
The Fianna Fail Cllr said as a result, of the minor increase families are “taken off the housing list and are finding themselves in incredibly tough positions.”
He said the decades old rules were “disrupting families’ lives,” and “leading to further marginalisation of an already marginalised community.”
Cllr O’Sullivan said people who have been on the waiting list for authority housing for years who take an hour’s work a week are finding they are losing their position in the queue for housing and starting a fresh once their income level dropped below the treshold.
He said the situation was such that people are refusing work with others refusing job seekers benefit as they fear they would be disbarred from both housing schemes.
“Someone could be earning €100 more than one person and not qualify and yet someone on €100 less can have all the benefits.”
Mr O’Sullivan said he would prefer to see the freezing of an applicant’s claim for six or twelve months while they are taking on the extra income. Once they go back to their original salary the freeze can be lifted.
Sinn Fein Cllr Danielle Twomey said there was also an issue with people on the Housing Assistance Payment scheme (HAP).
She said “since rent allowance applicants are being forced onto HAP the qualifying criteria is different and is leaving a lot of families in a very vulnerable position.”
While Cllr Sinead Sheppard said she recently had a case where a single mother who was nine years waiting for a house, found herself taking a promotion for six months but was unable to avail of the salary increase.
She said “there are people out there struggling that are in need of HAP and Council Housing. They are doing their best in relation to full time employment. We should be encouraging these people as best we can.”
Council CEO Tim Lucey said the authority were “operating under a regime that sets out maximum limits by legislation” and therefore the council did not “have the flexibility override those.”

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