1. CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
(a) To consider the confirmation and signing of the Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of the Committee held on 15th December, 2014.
Cllr Keohane (SF): Concerned that three dangerous junctions that he mentioned are not noted.
DM: If there are issues with things not being mentioned in the minutes, could the Executive be let know in advance.
2 tenders for Haulbowline Island Site Investigation being opened.
2. HOUSING REPORT
- Housing Operational Reports.
- Housing Capital Reports.
Cllr Canty (FG): Concerned that the same number of houses is still vacant in Innishmore.
Mary Ryan: Repairs and refurbishment 2014 report shows the work that has been done. 22, 23, 25 20, etc. has had work done.
Cllr Conway (Ind): What is meant by casual vacancies?
Cllr Creed (FG): There are a number of houses that haven’t been done in 2014. Is that a question of money?
Cllr McGrath (FF): Vacant housing report – some of the units listed for which works have not commenced since August. Is that simply down to funding? Do we have a new funding stream now for 2015?
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Long term voids – funding that was received from the government before Christmas was to have been drawn down before Nov. Was this done?
Mary Ryan: A casual vacancy is less than 6 months. Points out the work that has been done in 2014. We drew down allocated funding from the Dept. There were allocations for certain streams of money. There was a shortfall funded by the Council to the tune of €800k. Got €1.3m from the Dept. We’re getting a better bang for our buck by doing it this way. There are indications that there will be another funding stream for 2015. Waiting for a meeting with the Dept. The fastest way to provide units is to refurbish existing stock. Construction is important but refurbishment is faster. We don’t know how much funding we will get.
Cllr Buckley (SF): East Cork MD – work hasn’t started yet. His dad’s house has been idle since last June. The house was turnkey. What is the delay? Especially when houses are at a living standard.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Agrees that refurbishment is the way to go for speed. Thinks awful that 3 months after the national budget that the Council hasn’t been notified of extra money this year. We are working on vacant units at the moment. IS that being
Mary Ryan: Standards for rental have changed and this means we have to get each house certified and up to current building standards. We will check out this particular house
We are working on preparing tenders and having a tranche of work ready. This takes time. Specifications have to be prepared and inspections have to be made. This background work is being done and we will be ready then when we go to tender to use whatever money we get.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Report 4 – p2 – Ballincollig: no details given as to how many times it was offered or refused.
Cllr McCarthy (FG): Update on Maple Woods development in Midleton please? Any completion date?
Angela Murphy: Maple Woods – lease signed for phase 2. Nominations for all 25 units. 2/3 of tenants selected. Going through selection for remainder. Expect units to be occupied in February.
Vacated late last year – was offered in last week or so. Nominations were given to the voluntary body and interviews were held.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Seems a long time for a unit to be vacant.
RAS and HAP:
Cllr Buckley (SF): If someone gets on to the HAP scheme, does HAP pay the month’s rent in advance for the deposit?
Cllr O’Grady (SF): 31 people transferred to the HAP scheme since the beginning. Are they all new applicants? How many transferred from social welfare lists?
Cllr McCarthy (SF): Must a tenant apply to HAP before they get a transfer. Many of his people have been refused.
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind): HAP – if you are in a voluntary housing body, can you transfer for overcrowding reasons to HAP?
Angela Murphy: Deposit is not looked after by HAP. In exceptional circumstances, perhaps the CWO might.
Bulk of 31 people on HAP are new applicants. About one third are transferred from social welfare.
You cannot apply for a transfer from a social house or a voluntary house into HAP. HAP does not cover this type of transfer. Allocations policy sets out conditions under which person can get a transfer. Individual cases can come directly.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Do they feel the HAP process is moving forward well? Seems targets have not been reached. Rent threshold seems to be the biggest stumbling block especially close to the city.
Angela Murphy: It’s early days to comment on the progress of HAP. Was introduced on 15th September. None of the pilot authorities have reached the targets set for them. The target was also revised early in December to 500. That target was reached. Every new applicant approved for social housing receives a letter of approval and there is a section in that letter that tells the applicant they can apply for HAP. So it is up to the person whether they want to apply or not. We meet with the DSP regularly about transfers to HAP. We will be talking about other people on our waiting list and contacting them directly. The DSP people are generally 18 months + on rent supplement. Many of the new applicants are working (27) and could not have availed of housing support if it wasn’t for HAP. Our experience has been that the numbers are increasingly slowly.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Welcomes the 27. Better than rent supplement from this regard. Finds it astonishing that the targets were revised downwards.
AM: The revision for the targets was in the context of starting very late in the year. The start date had been revised several times. Targets for this year are 1800. A lot of the people on our lists had never heard of HAP before so there is a steep learning curve. There will be no revision downwards in the current year. The Council made a submission to the Department about the rent limits. There will be another letter going from last Friday’s SPC about the same issue.
Cllr Conway (Ind): Site in Blarney in state of dereliction. What will happen to it? (Station Rd)
Cllr Hegarty (FG): Cork Road, Killeagh. Registered site but not on the list.
AM: Debit balance on all of these sites. Keep looking at the market value. Up to now, we’d be at a loss if we sold. We’ve asked the Dept about a site subsidy which would assist us with the sale of the sites. We’ll be asking them again. We’ll look at the Station Road site and see if we can do anything.
Cllr N Collins (Ind): This is the worst housing crisis he has ever experienced in his time as an elected member. Encountered 6 cases of homelessness on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fixed them up with families eventually. Overcrowding also a real issue. Many cases on housing list. One family of 7 members living in 2 bedroom house. Family is approved for housing with Cork County Council. Council is trying to help with 4 bedroom house. The need for 4 bedroom houses was never more urgent. We will have to move on this or we’ll be back to single beds and birth control.
Cllr Buckley (SF): Efficiency works – are they private or council?
Karina: 222 works carried out on Council houses. We made a submission last week to look for extra money for this in the coming year.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): Is there a list of estates already drawn up should funding come on stream? Mentions specific estate needing attention.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): Commends the Council on the 222 houses. Is there a figure for the number that need to be done in the future? Can a list of the estates waiting to be done be circulated?
Karina: Phase 1 of energy efficiency is a rolling programme. 7,000 houses so will be done over years. Have identified houses for 2015. Please tell us if you know of any in particular. Submissions are welcome.
4. NOTICES OF MOTION
(a) By Councillor Noel Collins
(i) “Council report on the number of private leaking Waste Water Treatment Plants serving Housing Estates in South Cork, and if these will be submitted to the Department of the Environment , as requested, so works can be prioritised.”
Cllr Collins (Ind): Thanks John O’Neill for comprehensive report. DoE has asked for a list of all these estates to be sent to the Department. Lists additional areas that should be included in the list.
Cllr Buckley (SF): Supports the motion and the inclusion from Cllr Collins of specific housing estates.
Cllr McGrath (FF): This is a huge problem. Seems from the report that we are a long way off a solution. The whole issue seems very much up in the air with Irish Water. What about bonds? What role do they play?
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind) and Cllr Moynihan (FF): Supported. Latter notes that these come to the fore only when there are problems and where the Council is called in to sort them out. When will they be progressed? Where these plants exist in developments belonging to Cork County Council, will Irish Water take them in charge or will Cork County Council keep responsibility for them.
Divisional Manager (DM): Well aware of the estates that are causing problems and do have stand alone infrastructure. Many of these would have been put in place on a temporary basis and weren’t envisaged to be a long term solution to servicing of the sites. Delays in available money for investment and the whole Irish Water transition has left these facilities in place for longer than expected.
We generated a priority list of 20 and wrote to Irish Water before Christmas. Seeking a way forward. We have an issue with bringing these plants up to standard. The whole thing has to be sorted out between the Department and Irish Water as to who is going to pay for what.
When we see a way forward ourselves, we have taken the bold move of doing works. The estates then come to Cork County Council for taking in charge. The formal process for taking in charge is that we would submit these estates to Irish Water. The County Council took 170 estates in charge in the last year and we hope to do more this year.
Bonds have been an aid in dealing with financial institutions.
Cllr D’Alton (Ind): What happens when the bondholder doesn’t co-operate? And is it not the case that the County Council prefers when the bondholder carries out the works because they can generally achieve greater efficiencies than the County Council?
DM: When the bondholder doesn’t co-operate, they can always call in the bond themselves. Cork County Council hasn’t done this to date. They don’t really care whether better efficiencies can be achieved through the bondholder doing it or not. They’re not attempting to make money on this!
(ii) “That Council request the Government to lift the embargo on staff recruitment in Local Authorities, to allow the employment of social workers, to help with the many social issues resulting from the social housing crisis. ”
Cllr Collins (Ind): We have no social workers or doctors working with Cork County Council any more. There used to be, when he was elected first. Asks that the embargo would be lifted to allow employment of these services.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): A lot of local authorities do employ social workers. There are 4 in the City and since the embargo was introduced here the 3 that were employed have resigned or retired. The embargo is indeed a blunt instrument. Remembered the traffic wardens we spoke of at last full Council meeting.
Cllr McCarthy (SF): Thinks embargo should be lifted generally. Now we have people on Gateway and other such demeaning schemes.
Cllr Hegarty (FG): Is it true that in certain areas we can make a special case through the Department to apply for certain positions?
Cllr Buckley (FG): Issue has to be raised at government level. We as Councillors seem to be the social workers at the moment. Needs to be raised at top level.
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind): Please confirm that there is an anti-social behaviour officer.
Mary Ryan: We have 1 social worker and the other 2 took redundancy. But we have staff area officers dealing with rent arrears. There are staff of other grades and other people that are well able to deal with these issues.
DM: Exceptions – CE is an example of an exception. There are certain cases where the Department will sanction an employment but they are limited. Reiterates what Mary has said – there is a restriction against re-employing social workers because the other 2 lost took redundancy.
Cllr O’Grady (SF): We were told before that there were no social workers with the Council. Supports Cllr Hegarty’s suggestion that we write as a test case to the Department requesting the re-employment of social workers.
5. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Cllr Conway (Ind): Asked for a list of estates in the County that have not been taken in charge. Has been asking for months!
Cllr Cullinane (Ind): Has also asked for the same list.
Cllr Collins (FG): Can the top table assure that garda checks are done on all transfers before they are implemented?
Cllr Sheppard (FG): An issue with a number of houses in an estate in Cobh in relation to lead in the water. Brought this up on the rural water committee 3 times to date. Has rung County Hall and Irish Water. 2 residents in the estate are on bottled water since before Christmas. Was assured that someone would be out to test the water. How can this issue be resolved?
DM: Asks Cllr Sheppard to give the details. Recalls there was work done in Cobh some years ago in relation to lead. Standards have dropped in recent years so maybe that is causing the problem.
Karina: Garda checks are carried out prior to all allocations, whether applicants or transfers.
DM: Have noted the fact that a list of estates not taken in charge has been asked for. There are a lot of estates built in the 1950s/60s which have not been taken in charge yet. Easier to provide a list of the estates which have been taken in charge.