The twin issues of a skimpy housing maintenance budget and the €1 million a year spent by Louth County Council on servicing loans on landbanks they own, but cannot build on, were raised in Leinster House last week by Ruairí Ó Murchú TD.
The former Dundalk South councillor raised the local authority’s problems in the chamber during a debate on a Private Members’ motion to ban co-living.
Teachta Ó Murchú used the opportunity to tell Oireachtas members about how local authorities are ‘hamstrung’.
He said: “In Louth County Council there is a major difficulty in that for even the local authority housing we have, we have no maintenance budget.
“Combined with this, we are spending about €1 million a year on servicing the loans on landbanks, some of which were bought at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom on instruction from the Fianna Fáil government at the time.
“Louth County Council has had these landbanks on its books since. Nobody has ever crystallised the losses on them and there have been constant promises from departments but never a solution.
“I spoke to the Minister about this and I believe he will hold a meeting with Louth County Council, to include councillors, elected representatives and the council executive.
“We are talking across the board of mixed developments. We are talking about local authority housing, or council houses, and also affordable cost rentals for those who can afford to pay a fair rent but not necessarily the €1,000, €1,200, €1,400 or €1,600 one could be paying in urban Dundalk at this point.
“If it were not for HAP and the extortionate amounts paid into that scheme, people would be completely without housing. We accept the reality, but the problem is that HAP sets the baseline, so we have a completely dysfunctional system that needs to be fixed.
“Affordable cost-rental accommodation, affordable mortgages and the building of council houses – those are the solutions. We do not need these bonkers battery-cage living places. This was said by people who are now in positions of power while they were in positions over here, so we need follow-through.”