Donegal faces a ‘perfect storm’ over housing shortages



Donegal is facing a ‘perfect storm’ trying to deal with its housing crisis, according to a senior council official.

The local authority was already struggling to cope with growing numbers of people on its housing list before the severity of the mica problem – and the need for new homes – really became apparent last year. On top of that, the county now has an obligation to accommodate Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes, and construction costs are also rising.

Speaking at the Letterkenny-Milford Borough of April meeting, Donegal County Council Services Manager Liam Ward acknowledged the county was facing a perfect storm.

Regarding the influx of Ukrainians, he said: “Various initiatives are underway and are very active, but it is a huge challenge. Even in Donegal we will be running out of accommodation options for the foreseeable future. Although there are short-term arrangements for accommodation, these arrangements in guesthouses and hotels may only be of short duration.”

He told advisers that a national forum has been set up to deal with Ukrainians arriving in Ireland.

He stressed that “it’s not that we’re saying we can’t help Ukrainians”, but with mica issues and existing housing waiting lists, Donegal County Council will convey this to the forum.

Essentially, he felt that the combination of factors “must have an impact” on housing supply in the county.

Other issues that have limited housing supply include the low number of private sector housing projects in recent years.

The housing issue was raised by Cllr Ian McGarvey who tabled an emergency motion on the housing crisis in the Letterkenny-Milford MD area and called for a planned program to alleviate the housing deficit.

He said that there are already more than 1,100 applications on the housing list already in the MD area and that the population of the city should increase by 15,000 people, they would need another 300 to 400 new houses in addition existing projected levels.

“We are playing catch-up instead of solving the problem,” he said, adding that the TDs needed to bring the matter to the attention of Dáil Eireann.

He also claimed that “nothing is impossible if the will is there”.

Cllr Gerry McMonagle said they ‘have to be realistic’ saying it ‘takes an inordinate amount of time’ between when the council’s housing department gets a piece of land and when someone gets the key to a house .

“Along with health, this is one of the biggest issues we have with the public,” he said, adding, “We have a huge mountain to climb and we need to remove the obstacles and blockages. “We could talk about this all day. I’m just totally frustrated. The universal housing programs offered by the central government aren’t working at all.”

He also described what they were dealing with as the “perfect storm”.

Clr. McMonagle expressed frustration with the current state of housing affairs, saying, “I don’t think there is a will or a way.”

He continued: “It’s beyond that advice, we’ve had several different ministers. We’ve been told we have the best housing plans since sliced ​​bread. If anything gets worse, it’s not only the tip of the iceberg.

Not only is there already a growing housing list, but there are people with mica-affected properties who will need to move, and there are refugees from war-torn Ukraine who need to be housed, he pointed out.

He also expressed reservations about the slow delay between the moment a common property becomes vacant and the moment it is re-let.

Clr. Michael McBride revealed that there had been a request for the Termon gym to be made available to Ukrainian refugees.

He pointed out that many people had volunteered to host Ukrainians, but there are people in mica-affected houses who will have to move and there is no accommodation available for them.

He said he knew a man who had a 12-acre site that might suit long-term accommodation needs, and stressed the importance of finding out what suitable sites are available.

Cllr McBride suggested modular homes or timber houses might be an option and was aware of timber frame homes which cost £80,000. “I think it’s good value in the current climate,” he added.

He also said the council had tried to find homes for Ukrainians but there was simply no surplus and he felt there should be a planning exemption to take care of those. whose homes are affected by mica.

He asked for a letter to be written to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien highlighting Donegal’s problems.

Mr Ward confirmed that the Department of Housing is considering modular homes and accepted the need to look at all options, but the appropriate legislative framework must be in place. He also said the council was interested in knowing about possible sites.

On a more positive note, he revealed that the council was appointing vacancy housing officers.

The meeting was informed that there are currently 41 vacant public housing units in Letterkenny-Milford MD. 19 of them have been renovated and are in the move-in phase, 10 will soon be allocated after work in progress and 12 are in the process of being assessed.

During the meeting, Cllr Liam Blaney also requested that the mica test results of local authority homes be known. He also pointed out that people cannot rent houses at the moment.

Further workshops on housing are expected.

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