CORK City Council is experiencing an “increasing number of refusals” with regard to social housing offered to people under the choice-based letting (CBL) system.
Director of services in the council’s housing directorate, Niall Ó Donnabháin, made the comment at a full meeting of council on Monday after a number of councillors raised concerns about the length of time it is taking to allocate council-owned homes to people.
Mr Ó Donnabháin said the housing directorate will do everything in its power, particularly over the next six months, to “review better ways of streamlining the delivery of new stock and getting it occupied as quickly as possible but also looking at the older stock and seeing how we’re going to deal with that”.
However, he said the council is increasingly coming up against refusals.
“There is an increasing number of refusals among social housing tenants in terms of applications that have come forward where people go through the CBL process, identify an area or a house that they’re interested in; it goes through the full process of vetting, which is extensive as you can appreciate, particularly now based on the financial aspects of things, and the number of refusals is increasing,” said Mr Ó Donnabháin.
“That’s causing difficulty and it’s causing delays as well because we have to start again the process for the next person on the list.”
He added that new stock is “generally a lot more attractive” than some of the older stock and “that is a feature in terms of the refusal rate that is increasing”.
The CBL system allows applicants on the waiting list to make decisions regarding where they would like to live and their tenure choices.
Cork City Council properties and properties available for letting with approved housing bodies are advertised on the CBL website each week, and applicants can submit an expression of interest or ‘bid’ on any suitable properties which meet their housing needs.
If a number of qualified people express an interest in a CBL home, the home will be allocated in line with the local authority’s allocation scheme. If a person is offered a house or flat under the CBL system and refuses it, they are not able to apply for a CBL property for 12 months.
Several councillors expressed dismay at the rising number of refusals, including chair of the council’s housing strategic policy committee, Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon.
“In what we are told is the middle of a housing crisis, for people to be refusing, many of them at the very last stage, when they have first of all bid on the unit and have gone right through the various interviews and Garda vetting, and all of a sudden at the very last, they refuse it — that is soul-destroying for the staff who have to start all over again,” said Mr Shannon.
Fine Gael councillor and former lord mayor Joe Kavanagh also said it is concerning, “particularly when there is such a demand on housing across the city”.
His party colleague, councillor Deirdre Forde, suggested that the council adopt a tougher stance on refusals.
“In this day and age, when there are people in hotel rooms and guest rooms and in other properties and people really begging for houses, it’s not good enough,” said Ms Forde.