IMPACT trade union has called upon Cork City council to reverse plans to transfer existing social housing stock to housing associations and not to sell existing housing units in Cork city. The union, which represents city council staff, said that social housing services should be retained by the council in the best interests of service users.
Donal Guerin, speaking on behalf of IMPACT members in the council said, “Local government has a long and proud history in the provision of social housing, and there is a real concern now that government policy seems committed to removing local authorities from the direct delivery of social housing.”
He added, “The council staff in social housing have a deep knowledge and understanding of social housing provision. What we lack are adequate funds to deliver the service. IMPACT supports the call for an application to central government for funding to carry out the necessary repairs to existing vacant housing units and also that the council actively explores the option of accessing a loan to carry out these repairs. Any rental income arising from letting out vacant properties would enable the local authority to repay such a loan facility.”
Mr Guerin said that the transfer of housing units to the voluntary sector constitutes the privatisation of a vital local government service. “Local authorities throughout the country have experienced the removal of very good services, with high levels of customer satisfaction, and those services transferred to private suppliers. The most immediate effect of these measures in, for example, waste management and driving licence processing has been a deterioration on the quality of service to the public. These have happened with little or no consultation or debate, and we’re not convinced that abandoning the experienced service delivery of the council is in the interests of those in need of social housing.”
Mr Guerin said that local authorities have always had the capacity to offer social housing to tenants and to adapt to their changing needs. “For example, we have been able to facilitate older tenants downsizing from family accommodation to a small bungalow that better meets their needs. This move to more appropriate accommodation was possible because of the large housing stock held by a single local authority. Our capacity to do so now will be compromised if the housing stock is taken away, and tenants will no longer have the ‘one stop shop’ facility we provide to address their needs. Instead, they will have to navigate a complex network of housing associations and private landlords. We don’t accept that this is in the best interests of social housing clients.”