By Eugene McGloin
1978 WAS globally known as 'the year of the three Popes' and it looks like 2011 will be known, in Ireland anyway, as 'the year of the three Ministers for Housing.'
Indeed so many houses were built in the past decade the case could be argued for even having three Ministers in post at the one time.
However, when the latest Minister is appointed, he/she will finding waiting a Motion from Sligo Borough Council to reflect the fact that over six hundred people are officially homeless in the Borough.
Considering a report from the Borough Council's Housing Officer at this week's November General Purposes meeting, it also emerged only eight houses have been acquired currently in the long-term leasing scheme, which was recently introduced as national policy.
Cllr Declan Bree noted that 630 on the list were "homeless, while in excess of 1,000 (private) houses in the borough and environs are vacant. It sends out a message that all isn't well in this country." He suggested they make a significant submission to central Government to change its policy; long-term leasing isn't working out and the Council is not allowed to purchase or to build houses. "We have nothing to offer the 630 on the housing list" said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Sean McManus said that we are "in an awful mess in this State apart from the financial debacle." Neither this Government nor the previous had built one house. His party (Sinn Fein) proposed to spend one billion in a house-building programme, one-third of which would come back in savings on benefits and through taxes.
Cllr Arthur Gibbons noted that families availing of the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) had no security under that scheme.
Cllr Martt Lyons said a house-building scheme would be "lunacy. Why should we build more," he asked and said they should be looking for money "to allow people to buy their houses."
Cllr Jude Devins said he wouldn't necessarily agree "major funds" were needed. "What matters is that we are able to house people." He noted how difficult it was under Department policy for people to get on the housing list except in exceptional circumstances, when they are really entitled to apply
Cllr Veronica Cawley also criticised the guidelines sent down from the Department some years ago, ie not to be looking for accommodation from the Council. "that's what happened in the heyday and it hasnt changed since." She was also critical of voluntary agencies and how they treated tenants.
Cllr David Cawley said now was the time to approach NAMA and see if Council could get a 'social dividend' from them or a licence on the housing it now owned. "That's what they should be exploiting immediately, taxpayers own these houses," he said.
Mayor Rosaleen O'Grady supported asking NAMA to release some of its housing stock to the Council only. She cited a radio report earlier in day which said property had gone down by 46%, and more in Dublin