THE ongoing housing crisis in Donegal dominated the recent council meeting as the biggest issue facing the county.
At the plenary meeting of Donegal County Council in Lifford on Monday, two motions prompted a wider discussion among councillors on the housing issues facing the county and the impact they are having on residents.
The discussion began with officials seeking approval to borrow €7.415m for the purposes of land acquisition costs for housing purposes which was approved by members.
Cllr Michael McClafferty suggested an emergency meeting with the executive about the housing situation in the Glenties area.
He said the issue was raised at a recent Glenties Municipal Meeting as members want to see a blanket overview of the housing situation in the Council.
Members agreed an emergency meeting would be beneficial as housing is the single biggest issue currently facing the county with the issues being exacerbated by the defective block crisis and a supply shortage.
An emergency meeting is set to be held on October 11 but a wider discussion was also carried out along with the passing of two housing motions.
Cllr Ciaran Brogan proposed that the Council set up a dedicated Housing Directorate away from Housing and Corporate to deal with the huge challenge in this area.
The housing department deals with providing new social housing, the new defective concrete block scheme, disabled persons grants, housing adaption grants, new vacant homes grants and derelict housing grants.
Cllr Brogan said Housing should be a sole department to ensure that the Housing Section is fully resourced going forward.
Meanwhile, Cllr Marie Therese Gallagher submitted a motion which asked the Council to develop a short/medium and long-term housing plan for the county, She said the plan should include social, affordable and private homes along with serviced sites, and that a team is deployed to progress housing in each Municipal District.
During the discussion, one of the main concerns was the length of time it takes the Council to acquire or build houses.
Cllr Donal Coyle referred to the timeline of a 34 unit housing development in Oran Hill on the Kilmacrennan Road.
The housing development was first agreed on in September 2019 but work is not expected to start on the site until Quarter one of 2024.
Cllr Coyle said the delays to projects were frustrating and something needs to be done to speed up the process.
“When you take that narrative – a year and a half or two years for design – there lies the problem as to why social housing is not being delivered at a reasonable pace.
“Granted there was Covid-19 but at the same time I don’t think that is an excuse for a delay like this.
“This is a scheme of 34 houses and it has taken four and half years to get to where we are now and no houses built yet.
“In the last couple of months, two parcels of land were bought for housing – how long will it take to deliver 300 houses on these sites?” said Cllr Coyle.
Cllr Michael McBride raised the issue of the council purchasing houses from a developer.
He said he visited a development in Letterkenny which was to be purchased by the Council and met with the owner who said the council were looking for block testing documents.
Cllr McBride said the owner lifted his phone and asked a real estate agent to come and put up a for sale sign for the houses.
He said the houses were expected to be used as social housing and people on the housing list had already visited the site.
“There does not seem to be a contract with the Council. I find it very hard to understand how something can get to such an advanced stage without a contract.
“I think it is a very serious situation and portrays the Council in a very bad way.
“These were very fine houses and people would have been very happy to get them,” said Cllr McBride
In a similar note, Cllr Liam Blaney referred to a housing development of 17 houses in Milford which were to be acquired by the Council but “the deal fell through.”
He said it had been 15 years since the last housing development in Milford and he asked what is happening with the houses.
He said people are waiting anxiously on them to become available as social housing.
Cllr Patrick McGowan raised the issue that Donegal is not performing as well as other counties.
“The general feeling is that we not making the progress we should be making.
“It is being throwing up to us that we are not performing as well as other counties.
“If we look at south Tipperary where they are building 1,000 houses – we need to be doing more and more,” said Cllr McGowan.
Cllr Niamh Kennedy said there is a need for at least 27 houses in Killybegs with 17 houses at the paperwork stage with the drawings complete.
She questioned how long it takes for housing extensions and adaptions to be approved. She said these projects are being carried out by families who have no where else to move too.
Council officials agreed to have answers to all questions raised by the councillors at the special council meeting on October 11.