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'Increase will put people back years': Cork social housing list numbers jump following city extension

The number of people on Cork city’s social housing waiting list has jumped by almost 1,500 arising out of the city boundary extension.

The near 35% surge represents one of the single largest increases ever on the housing waiting list.

It has sparked fears that those on the city’s old waiting list will face an even longer wait for suitable local authority housing.

Sinn Féin Cllr Thomas Gould said councillors expected a certain increase in the figures in the wake of the city boundary extension - but not on this scale.

“It’s a disaster for those who have been on the city’s list for several years. If you were on the old list, you had some chance but this increase will put people back years,” he warned.

He was reacting to figures presented to councillors on Monday which show there are now 5,546 eligible applicants on the expanded city’s housing waiting list as of June 1 - up from 4,063 in April.

The increase of 1,483 is due solely to the extension of the city’s boundary on May 31 and the acquisition of people in transfer areas who were on the county council’s housing list.

Under the first city boundary extension since 1965, the city’s footprint more than quadrupled to take in areas including Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower, Glanmire and Douglas, and its population rose by some 85,000 to 220,000.

But Mr Gould said that while the city has taken on almost 1,500 social housing applicants, the extension didn't deliver an equivalent increase in new or available social housing units:

“It could be two or three years before the decisions we’re making now on projects actually deliver housing. We need a fast-track solution. We need to reexamine the Government’s housing targets for this city and the various approaches for delivering local authority housing. The targets are just not ambitious enough."

The city is on track to deliver 461 social housing units this year but Mr Gould pointed out that there were 101 new applicants to the city’s housing list in May with just 21 units allocated, and that there have been 484 new applicants to the list so far this year, with 100 units allocated.

He said it is clear that the delivery of housing is nowhere near where it needs to be to cope with the pre-city boundary extension demand, let alone a larger list.

A spokesperson for the council’s housing directorate said the extension has presented challenges and opportunities.

He said the city has increased its social housing stock by some 1,000 units to more than 10,000 homes to become one of the largest housing authorities in the country, and that it now has a vast new metropolitan area in which to provide additional homes: "We were very confined up to now, with a scarcity of available opportunities for site assembly and provision of more sustainable communities - that has now all changed."

The spokesman noted: “These additional opportunities will be needed as the council has acquired an additional 1,483 applicants on its housing list from the county council.

"While this figure may initially seem abnormally high, these new applicants are unique in that most have a double opportunity as they are on both the city and the county council housing lists as many have chosen to retain their former areas of choice in the county.”