Clare PPN/Clare Environmental Network Submission to Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028

Clare PPN/ Clare Environmental Network Submission to Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028

Our thanks to all the members of our environmental college and of Clare Environmental Network who participated in our consultation on the new Clare County Development Plan for the years 2022- 2028.  We have a 24 page submission full of great suggestions and expertise thanks to you all. You can read it at the link below:

Clare PPN CEN Environmental Submission for CDP 2022-2028

‘The Vision for County Clare 2022-2028’
A county that values, protects and restores its unique landscape, environment
and biodiversity, where sustainable livelihoods are prioritised for this and future
generations and where citizens, migrants, ethnic minorities and people of all
abilities, age groups and genders are able to reach their potential in an
atmosphere of support, respect and inclusion, and where Local Government is
open, transparent, accountable and committed to reducing poverty and
marginalisation within the County. Our vision is for a County to be part of and a
County to be proud of

 

Your views on ‘Where to now?’ for Clare and Ireland

‘You cannot keep the spring from coming’

Your views on ‘Where to now?’ for Clare and Ireland

As political parties were sitting down to plan for a new government, we asked you to send us your views on what direction Clare and Ireland should take as we emerge from the pandemic. Do we go back to ‘normal’ or take the opportunity for major change? Are there aspects of the lockdown that are worth holding on to?

You sent us inspiring ideas and rousing calls for action. Some clear themes emerged, including calls for a national health service, more remote working, creating resilient communities and more local democracy. The most prevalent issue was our environment, with demands for greater climate action, less Roundup on our roadsides, a biodiversity education campaign and more community-owned wind farms.

There was also calls for a four-day week, more workers’ and tenants’ rights and for music and the arts to be part of our recovery.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to us. Below we bring you a selection of the best submissions. We will now pick four of these names out of a hat for the four €50 vouchers for takeaway meals from local restaurants and will announce those soon.

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Michael Callaghan,
Ennis

Going to work is over-rated. Let’s have more remote working. This will help the planet but also the mental and physical health of those who commute.

The five-day week is over-rated. Let’s have the four-day-week as the maximum anybody should be required to do. And the three-day week as the norm. This will mean less unemployment, as the work can be shared around more evenly. And people will be more productive in the fewer days they are working.

The ‘moral hazard’ of giving people money for nothing is over-rated. Let’s have a universal basic income. Let’s at least try it.

Foreign holidays are overrated. Let’s celebrate and encourage holidaying in Ireland. Let’s give up the obsession with Shannon Airport and look for alternative tourism and alternative industries in this region.

Profit is overrated. Let’s remove profit as the deciding factor in whether to keep post offices open. We don’t require parks, libraries or Garda stations to make a profit, so why post offices?

Big business is overrated, for example developer-led renewable energy. Let’s help and support communities to build their own wind farms and solar. In countries such as Denmark and Germany, where most wind farms are owned by the people living near them, wind turbines are popular.

Natural” gas is overrated. Let’s develop offshore wind off the Clare coast and tidal energy on the Shannon Estuary.

The rights of landlords are over-rated. Let’s have a rent freeze and much stronger rights for tenants.

Neat and tidy is over-rated, at least when it comes to roadside verges. Let’s have less cancer-causing herbicide, more wild flowers, more wild grass, more wild growth, more for pollinators to thrive on.

Capitalism is overrated. Let’s encourage and experiment with more collectives, co-operatives and not-for-profit enterprises.

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Oonagh O’Dwyer,
Ennistymon

I remember while in college studying Sustainable Development, the profound effect the following words had on me: “Living now that does not have a negative effect on the future”. While that was a few years ago, these words have never been more important or pressing.

What if we were to make Ireland a truly sustainable country to live in and travel to, for society, the economy and the environment? The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN member states in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

With such positive advancements and alternatives in energy, agriculture and economics, and the new resurgence of self-sufficiency since the coronavirus put a halt to our gallop, we have had time to re-address how we live our lives, and here’s hoping it will long continue after the phases have been lifted. DIY, gardening, working from home, alternative transport solutions, cleaner air, and even the simplest of things, seed-saving, all becoming the new norm, skills lost and found. I see this as a golden opportunity to tackle the long-bandied-about climate crisis issues we face in Ireland. Beach closures due to raw sewage or fertilisers from the land, water infrastructure not up to speed, I could go on.

Permaculture and regenerative farming are being seen as real alternatives to our monoculture madness and offer simple yet hugely rewarding ways of living off the land. What about bio-digesters that turn excess effluent into energy to power homes and farms? Explore the sustainable harvest of using red seaweeds to reduce methane emissions from cattle by 60%. Restore our once thriving small fishing industry, so it is not taught as a history lesson! Create retrofit house grants, support for more community energy schemes.

As the recent report arc2020.eu, https://www.arc2020.eu/farm-2-fork-a-truly-green-farming-food-and-rural-vision-for-ireland/ advises, farms can be providers of food, fibre, energy, timber, agro-tourism and recreation. This is a real chance to achieve these goals.

Sounds like common sense to me.

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Sam Krawec,
Ennis

We all need to be able to determine the direction of our own lives. This means also having a say in the things that affect our lives. Everyone needs to have a voice in the conditions of our housing, healthcare, education, and employment. Everyone needs to have a voice in the health of our communities and our relationship with the rest of nature. But, as many of us know, this doesn’t happen on its own.

To have a voice we need power. To build power we need mass movements like Black Lives Matter, as well as Extinction Rebellion, the School Strikes for Climate, and so many others. To exercise power we need organisations such as tenant associations, student unions, and labour unions. To do these things we need to figure out which side we are on and who is there with us.

If I could sit down – socially distanced – with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, I would share with them this quote from the late Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda: “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep the spring from coming.” I would tell them that, in a way, it is in their own interest to listen to the needs of the people.

In the wake of this pandemic, we need an all-Ireland national health service. To prepare for the economic impact of the pandemic, we need to strengthen and extend the rights of workers to collectively bargain. In the midst of a climate emergency, we need to halt all fossil-fuel related projects and rapidly transition to green renewable energy. If they do not listen and respond to these needs, it is in their own interest to get out of the way.

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Sinéad Sheehan,
Scariff

For the first time in the verges of the roadside in east Clare, I saw an orchid. It was the first time the verges had not been cut in the spring, all because of the Covid crisis. Odd that the travel restrictions imposed for the Covid-19 crisis meant there was some relief for the other crises we face – the climate and biodiversity crises.

The verges are now mostly thriving and full of life. I’ve heard another word used too: “overgrown”. Yet it makes absolutely no difference to the human users of that road to have this mini ecosystem in existence but it makes a whole world of difference to the many flora and fauna who can thrive here without harming or hurting anyone else.

Do people know about the biodiversity emergency before spraying the poisonous chemical glyphosate – widely available in local shops in Ireland – all over the declining pollinators’ food, destroying it? If people knew dandelions were of vital importance to pollinators in decline, would they create the dead orange mess outside their homes?

The point I’m making here is we need to take care of biodiversity generally, from the tiniest of insects to the greatest of oak trees. The first step to taking care of anything is education. Most adults don’t know which trees are native to Ireland or which native flowers rare butterflies living in their area feed on. While some grassroots projects are doing their best to reach the population, there needs to be a government-led educational campaign on the other emergencies we are facing, the climate and biodiversity emergencies. We all received booklets telling us how to wash our hands, sneeze into our arms and dispose of our tissues. Now the country needs booklets about what kinds of trees support biodiversity, which species are endangered and what we can do to bring them back.

And if you’re wondering why biodiversity matters, the answer is very simple. Because we are part of it. We are just one more species, and although we have taken over most of the planet now, we need to realise that if we don’t look after the other species who are now struggling here, we too will struggle and may even become extinct.

So I would ask our elected representatives to please create an emergency campaign around climate and biodiversity, a booklet to every door, restrictions on glyphosate and a lot more to promote a healthy environment for us all to thrive.

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Theresa O’Donohoe,
Lisdoonvarna

Covid-19 has shown us what communities can do in a crisis as well as how government can trust, respond and support that. Local people played a major part in shaping the national response as teams of people who care passionately about their community jumped into action. They have been working voluntarily for hours on end to make their community safe.

As well as the amazing capacity of our volunteer force, our communities are made up of invaluable front-line workers, innovative teachers, capable students, friendly neighbours, creative entertainers and more, who have all learned to transfer online.

Covid-19 demonstrates how we should act in an emergency. The national health officials deliver the facts every day. The stark reality and required actions were posted to every house and are publicised on every media platform available. People are empowered to understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. People are trusted with the information and their capacity to act. The same approach must be adopted for the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

Town councils were abolished in 2014. We need an alternative, with a sustainable development remit, that can co-ordinate emergency response teams. Pandemics are one of many anticipated challenges in the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Being prepared for them is one aspect of the response required. Taking steps to slow them down is another. Local teams are the driving force we need.

We need a national awareness raising campaign telling the truth about the climate and biodiversity emergencies. We need sustainable development and emergency response plans in every single community. We need to build local resilience to ensure our capacity to cope with future shocks.

A government that leads the country on a resilient pathway would be my silver lining. Taking steps now to tell the truth about our predicament, facilitate communities to discuss the challenges and support the actions they decide to take. The policy to support this exists but the political will doesn’t. We need our decision makers to trust the people, trust communities, to shape the national response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

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Ronan Summerly,
Ennis

Throughout 25 years as a gigging musician, I have had busy spells and breaks for different reasons but live music was always a constant. As a performer and punter this is the first time that there has been silence.

Some solos artists can perform online from home but if you operate as a full band that may not be an option so all you can do is wait and look forward to a resumption. Another issue is in what capacity live performance can return, as it may not be profitable to feature live music with a very limited audience.

The country is on the first step to reopening but I have not seen a plan to phase the arts back to any sense of normality as yet in any news articles or in any list of phasing for businesses. At the beginning of the year I spoke to a public representative who was looking at the idea of a general Ennis festival covering all aspects of the arts and there was some interest in incorporating Originality Clare and original music into this. Originality Clare is something I set up last year, when I noticed a hole that needed to be filled and had a first night promoting bands performing original music in Ennis.

When we are past this crisis I would like to see talks resume on this and many more matters relating to the way forward for musicians and public representatives, understanding the importance of the contribution of music and arts in general and that it needs to be a step on the road to recovery.

If anybody would like to discuss any points, or any original artists would like to see how we can work together, I can be contacted under Originality Clare on Facebook. I would also like to thank Clare PPN for their ongoing assistance to artists in every form in Clare.

* * * * *

Mary White,
Meelick

Abolish the two-tier health system once and for all. Ireland is for those with extra means and always has been. It’s time for us to abolish this inequality and invest in keeping our doctors and nurses. We need to create a new mentality about serving our own people here and reforming ourselves – something that has never happened. Now is the time to foster a progressive patriotism.

Carbon tax on petrol/diesel at the pumps should be poured into improving rail and bus services and help reduce carbon footprint over time. I don’t support a reduction in the herd and don’t support affecting people’s livelihoods or a 7% reduction which will destroy a lot of people’s jobs and farming. I support meaningful measures over time.

Measures to tackle plastic must be taken and more local produce encouraged.

Reform the secondary school system to give every child a more equal opportunity to actually gain something valuable from secondary education. I support a four-year Junior Cert and three-year Leaving Cert, comprising terminal exams but also continual assessment. Creative teaching must be a goal. Languages must be taught better. Irish teaching must be radically reformed. Teaching must be assessed in a meaningful way. The French, German and Finnish systems should be an inspiration on modeling. Music, PE and Drama must be offered to every single child.

Support power-sharing in Northern Ireland. Promote more all-island co-operation and leave border polls for a post-Brexit future.

Important Update from Clare PPN following September 9th Council Meeting

Important update from Clare PPN on yesterday’s Clare County Council meeting.

Please note that we still need to seek clarity on some issues below as these are just based on our notes from yesterday and will need to be confirmed by official council minutes. 

Update on Clare PPN’s Submissions to Clare County Council from their meeting of September 9th 2019

Yesterday, among other business, three items on which Clare PPN and our member groups had made submissions on were up for consideration by Clare County Council.
Those items were
• Clare County’s Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019- 2024
• The Draft Scheme for Strategic Policy Committees 2019 – 2024
• Clare County’s Traveller Accommodation Strategy 2019- 2024

Clare PPN had contacted all Councillors seeking their support in advance of this meeting because it was brought to our attention that in particular the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy was being presented to Councillors as originally drafted despite more than 29 individual submissions being received. One of those submissions was from Clare PPN and Clare Environmental Network and had been contributed to by 27 separate environmental groups in the County. We are grateful that a cross party group of Councillors sought and secured a special meeting of Clare County Council on the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy. This will ensure that Councillors can consider each submission received and question the directors of service as to their decisions. This meeting will take place next Monday September 16th at 2pm in the Council Chamber and the gallery will be open to the public. We would encourage any of our members who made submissions to attend however we will also attend at take notes for feedback purposes.

As part of Clare PPN’s submissions to both the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019 -2024 and to the Draft Strategic Policy Committee 2019- 2024 we had requested that a separate dedicated Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategic Policy Committee be set up in Clare and that all other SPCs would have a minimum of one environmental representative seat. The proposal for a Climate Change and Biodiversity SPC was not agreed at yesterday’s meeting which is something that Clare PPN and our member groups consider a lost opportunity and it is something we will continue to campaign for. Several changes that we do welcome were proposed and seconded however by the Councillors and we look forward to seeing the following actions implemented:

-A full time Climate Change and Biodiversity Officer will be appointed from within existing staff resources to oversee Climate Change and Biodiversity Actions across all directorates.

-Each Strategic Policy Committee will have Climate Change and Biodiversity as a standing agenda item.

-Each Directorate will issue a monthly report on Climate Change and Biodiversity as part of their contribution to the Monthly Management Report.

We also note the proposals to rename/add areas of responsibility two existing Strategic Policy Committees as follows:
The Physical Development SPC will be renamed ‘SPC for Physical Development and Climate Change’ and the SPC for Economic Development will be renamed SPC for Economic Development and Biodiversity. On behalf of our members we seek clarification from the Council on the rationale for these changes, in particular we wish to ascertain the reason that Climate Change and Biodiversity are being separated and secondly how it was decided that biodiversity should sit with Economic Development. Clare PPN considers that the changes in responsibility for the above SPCs will necessitate extra seats for community environmental interests if they are to be effective. We will seek clarity from Clare County Council as to whether this has already been incorporated in the changes.

We thank the Councillors for their support in ensuring that the views of all of those who made submissions will be given consideration at Council level next Monday and for working to ensure that Climate Change and Biodiversity are made central to the work of all directorates in the Council. We look forward to working with them to ensure that these actions are implemented as soon as possible.

Submissions relating to the Traveller Community:
Our submission on the Draft Strategic Policy Scheme requested that the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee be reconfigured as a Strategic Policy Committee which is in line with a proposal made in an independently commissioned report for the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee. This was not accepted and the LTACC will instead continue as a stand-alone committee, where issues raised may come before the Social Development SPC which deals with housing. Clare PPN is disappointed that this committee was not reconfigured as suggested however we remain committed to working alongside Travellers to ensure that successful and meaningful participation is possible for the Traveller Community in Clare.

Further to that we welcome the fact that the Draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019 – 2024 was not adopted at yesterday’s Council meeting and was deferred until next month’s meeting. We had expressed our concerns that this plan was being passed without involvement from the Traveller Community. We will seek clarity however from Clare County Council on whether during this deferred month the Draft Traveller Accommodation Programme will reopen for submissions and if so what efforts will be made by the Local Authority to ensure that the community affected by this accommodation programme have an opportunity to have their views heard. Clare PPN is willing to assist in this regard in whatever way we can.

Overall we feel that several progressive changes were agreed at yesterday’s council meeting and whilst some of the above needs clarification we are extremely glad that the above strategies were not passed without respect and consideration given to community engagement. We hope to see further progress being made, in particular in relation to the issue of a dedicated Climate Change and Biodiversity SPC and towards a respectful and meaningful engagement between the Traveller community and the local authority. We state Clare PPN’s own commitment to working to ensure that the public and in particular Community and voluntary groups in Clare are able to influence and input to Local Government decisions. Thanks to the Councillors for their work on all of the above and in particular our thanks to all of those who engaged with and participated in our submissions.

 

Please note that as we said above these are not official minutes from Clare County Council’s meeting but are notes taken as the meeting happened so we can’t guarantee that we have no inaccuracies – but we’ll confirm as we get all details and official reports.

 

Local Election Hustings – meet the candidate and voter registration events

Meet the Candidate and Voter Registration Events

Clare Public Participation Network Press Release

Clare PPN ‘Hustings’: Meet the Candidates & Voter Registration Events

Clare PPN is delighted to be hosting a ‘Meet the Candidates & Voter Registration’ event in each Electoral Area in Clare County Clare in the run up to the 2019 Local Elections. Candidates are invited to address their voters and those attending will be given the opportunity to have their questions answered by the candidates. These events will be MC’d by Peter O’Connell Editor of the Clare Champion, Gloria Callinan of Clare Local Development Company, Fiona McGarry of Clare FM’s Morning Focus programme and Christy Sinclair Secretariat Member of Clare PPN.

At each of these five events Clare PPN in collaboration with An Garda Siochana, will also be hosting a one-stop shop for voter registration where people will be assisted to register for the supplementary register of electors if they are not already registered to vote. This is important for young people, in particular those who have turned 18 or will turn 18 on or before 24th May 2019. All of those who will be 18 or over at the time of the election are eligible to vote so long as they get on the register in time.

Clare PPN would also like to make sure that those who have migrated to Ireland from other countries are aware that they can vote in local government elections regardless of their citizenship so long as they are on the register or the supplementary register and we would like to extend a particular welcome to people from all backgrounds, countries and ethnicities to attend these events and take the opportunity to get even more involved in how the communities they live in are governed.

Anyone concerned should check the register at www.checktheregister.ie to see if they are registered and if not they need to fill in form RFA2 (https://www.checktheregister.ie/PublicPages/AppForms.aspx ) and bring it and photo ID and proof of address to their local Garda Station and have it stamped and return it to Clare County Council before the cut-off point of May 7th 2019.

 

Or else they can just attend one of the five events listed below and bring their ID and proof of address  with them and we’ll get their registration in order for them with the help of our community Guards.

So come along, inform and be informed!!!

The dates are as follows:

• Killaloe Municipal District: 23rd April @ 7pm, Kilkishen Cultural Centre

• Kilrush Electoral Area: 24th April @ 7pm, An Teach Cheoil, Kilrush

• Shannon Municipal District: 25th April @ 7pm, Shannon Oakwood Hotel

• Ennis Municipal District: 26th April @ 8pm, Cloughleigh Community Centre

• Ennistymon Electoral Area: 30th April @ 7pm, The Falls Hotel

If you have any questions/comments please do not hesitate to email: admin@clareppn.ie

 

 

 

 

Some of your Councillors thoughts on the housing situation in Clare

Some of your Councillors thoughts on the housing situation in Clare

Some of your Councillors thoughts on the housing situation in Clare

Clare PPN’s Social Inclusion College representatives have been doing some work behind the scenes on housing issues in County Clare. One of their actions was to write to all of the County Councillors seeking their thoughts and ideas on how the housing needs of people in the County could be met. For those of you who are interested in this topic some of their responses are here below:

 

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Cllr Gerry Flynn Independent

The Council are concentrating all their efforts on what can be achieved since the economic collapse and with limited construction by the private sector and local authorities. The PPN are represented on the Council’s STRATEGIC POLICY COMMITTEE that deals with policies around Housing/ Culture/ Sport and Recreation and as Chairman I welcome any ideas from the PPN.

I attach some recent information I received from The Director of Service of Clare County Council and you will see the great strides made by The Council to provide accommodation. I would encourage positive comments at this time and also the public need to realise that the day of fast accommodation been provided by The Council is gone and families need to try and provide for themselves. The intention always was for the council to support people who would be vulnerable and I am of the opinion that the council cannot be the only provider of accommodation and currently a lot of housing bodies are doing their best to provide support to the council in the form of approved housing bodies and other providers. You will see from the recent report that The Council have provided 1177 Units of Accommodation from January 2016 to May 31st 2017. I am pleased with this progress.

Questions from Councillor Gerry Flynn for Council Meeting

June 8th 2017

Curtha faoi bhráid na Comhairle ag Cllr. G. Flynn:

“That Clare County Council’s Housing Section provides a report outlining all the initiatives in place to address the housing need in the county.

  1. Total number of properties rented to applicants from the Council’s own stock from 1st January 2016 to 31st May 2017.
  2. Total number of applicants supported under various schemes from January 2016 to 31st May 2017: to include: Leasing, HAP, and any other measures supported by the Council.
  3. Total number of loans approved from January 2016 to 31st May 2017
  4. Total number of residential property purchased to include acquisition cost and cost of bringing property to a habitable condition. (No requirement for breakdown, just accumulated cost) and how many of these properties are now rented to applicants from January 2016 to 31st May 2017.”

Response to above questions from Liam Conneally Director of Services in Clare County Council 

‘I wish to respond as follows:  Clare County Council as the housing authority is committed to addressing the high demand for social housing throughout the county. This demand is continuing to be met by the construction, acquisitions, leasing and renting of suitable properties countywide.  As well as advancing our supply of housing the Council is active in promoting national initiatives such as the Buy & Renew and the Repair & Lease schemes. The Council is also working closely with Approved Housing Bodies in different parts of the county to deliver housing units.

Also, our staff are assisting new applicants and existing tenants with mortgage information, loan applications and where applicable, tenant purchase options.

The numbers of housing units being delivered annually in the County by private builders is still very low resulting in small numbers being produced through the part V mechanism. Despite the numbers of house units being delivered directly/indirectly by local authorities the high housing demand needs private builders back in the market building houses.

Q 1.

208 house allocations made in the period between Jan 2016 and May 2017. The breakdown of these by Municipal District area is as follows:

  • Ennis MD                            85
  • West Clare MD                  73
  • Shannon MD                      32
  • Killaloe MD                         18

Item 2

In terms of Housing Assistance Payment(HAP) tenancies, Clare continues to be one of the leading housing authorities in the management of same with over 1100 tenancies in place since HAP was introduced on June 29th 2015.   886no. HAP tenancies have been facilitated in the period Jan ’16 to May’17. 45no. RAS & Leasing tenancies exist in the Jan ’16 – May ’17 period.  During the period Jan 2016 to May 2017 the Council entered into 83no. lease agreements (34 short term leases, 19 long term leases and 30 leases arranged with Approved Housing Bodies).

Item 3

In regard to Loans, we have seen a marked increase in the number of Loan applications to the Council.  For example, the number of annuity loan applications received in 2016 increased from 2 in 2015 to 56 in 2016.  This was partly due to the Incremental Tenant Purchase Scheme and the Shared Ownership Restructuring Schemes, both of which were introduced in 2016.  There were 18no. loans approved from January 2016 to 31st May 2017  (6 new annuity loans, 5 tenant purchase loans and 7 shared ownership re-structured loans).

Item 4

House acquisitions are being made to maximise the number of houses available to applicants on the Council’s housing list and while there is still value in the market. In the period January 2016 to 31st May 2017, agreement has been reached to purchase 135no. houses.  Of these, sales have closed for 76 dwellings to the end of May with an acquisition cost of €7,749,000.  Forty of these dwellings have been refurbished to date costing a total of €963,000 with thirty-six allocated as of 31st May, 2017.  The remaining number are currently being assessed for works required, at tender stage or near completion of refurbishment with a view to all being returned to occupancy as quickly as possible.  Reduction in turnaround time for such properties is a priority.

The Housing Team within the Social Directorate are working to capacity in the delivery of homes for people in need of housing in a chaotic housing market.’

Le meas,

Liam Conneally,

Director of Service

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Councillor Pat Hayes:

Thank you for your recent letter concerning the present housing crisis in Clare and indeed nationally. It is my belief that not enough measures are being taken to resolve this crisis at national and local level.

In Clare here there are proposals to build Social housing in Feakle, Clonlara and Mullagh which in my view this process takes far too long to proceed and this needs to be overhauled and give greater power to local authorities to manage these projects.

As a local Councillor I have been involved in progressing long term leasing of properties across the county and it is my belief that this process can help to alleviate the waiting list as one measure.  It Is my view that a far more progressive plan towards house building needs to be fast tracked and needs to remove obstacles to progressing these, The amount of vacant properties in all our towns and villages needs to be seen as a resource that can utilized as a measure that can support the regeneration of towns and villages and at the same time bringing life back to these areas.

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Councillor Paul Murphy

I wish to acknowledge receipt of the Clare PPN letter concerning the shortage of housing in County Clare. I acknowledge the fact that there are over 2,500 people on the waiting list countywide, of which over 1,200 of these are waiting for housing in the Ennis area. This is obviously a matter of enormous concern to me and this is replicated right across the country. I believe that this is going to be a continuous challenge for local authorities nationwide as demand will possibly always exceed units available for allocation. Clare County Council purchased 95 units last year and is in the process of building over 70 houses directly while delivering more through Approved Housing Bodies, Long Term Leasing and also the Repair and Lease Scheme. I am aware that it realistically takes 2 years to deliver any housing development and this increases the challenge faced by the Council.

The Housing Minister, Simon Coveney launched the Rebuilding Ireland plan last year and I believe that inroads will be made into the waiting lists if the current Minister is left in this Department. Time will tell and we may have a different Minister in the weeks ahead due to change in the leadership of Fine Gael. The one obvious thing that would accelerate clearing the waiting lists is additional finance being made available to the Housing Departments across the country but this can only be achieved if the fortunes of the nation’s economy and coffers continue to improve.

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Cllr Mike McKee Sinn Fein

The lack of Social Housing builds in recent years, as a result of the failures by successive governments, has resulted in the homelessness crisis we are facing today and will do for years to come unless the political will is there to resolve it and not just ministers paying lip-service to and massaging the true figures of what is a disgraceful position we have been left in.To solve this will require great vision, innovation and a holistic approach to tackle social housing need, private market provision, rent inequities, discrimination and community-based inclusivity.

We face social housing shortages; a crisis of homelessness; rising private property prices; increasing rents; shortages in emergency accommodation; burdensome mortgages; and a legacy of poor build quality and unsustainable planning.  The idea that the market will solve everything the key pillar on which successive government policies have rested, has been shattered by the boom and subsequent bust. In its wake lie destroyed lives and broken communities.

The vision of Sinn Fein, in relation to housing, is as follows:

  • Every person in Ireland has the right to adequate and appropriate housing, regardless of income, age, economic or other affiliation or status, and has a right to freedom from discrimination in housing.
  • Every person has the right to security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment or other threats, regardless of the form of tenure.
  • Housing policy must adequately meet the needs of disadvantaged groups including, but not limited to, the elderly, children, people with disabilities and lone parents.
  • Travellers have the right to housing that is culturally appropriate.
  • Everyone has the right to participate in public decisions that affect their right to housing.

The greatest workload for Councillors at present is dealing with housing queries. it is the most difficult job trying to explain to young couples who may be on the list for a number of years that they will still be there for the foreseeable future and the only answer is to find private rented accommodation and avail of the Housing Assistance Payment scheme. While we are all aware that it is illegal not to accept HAP, the reality is the opposite (HAP). The lack of private rentals compared to the demand has ensured that landlords can pick and choose their tenants and demand references which has made it impossible for first time renters to even get on the rental ladder never mind the dream of ownership at some stage.

What is needed: 100,000 new social builds over the next 15 years. Provide rent certainty by index linking rent increases and decreases to the Consumer Price Index.

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Cllr Cathal Crowe  Fianna Fail

At this evening’s meeting of Clare County Council I received the unanimous backing of my colleagues to have the possibility of our local authority setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to more efficiently provide social housing examined by a committee of councillors. Clare County Council’s Housing Committee will now examine the merits of my proposal before any further decision is taken.

Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) are essentially companies which are set up achieve a narrow and very specific objective. They can be created under Section 110 of the Taxes Consolidation Act of 1997. NAMA is the best known SPV in Ireland.

I recognise that the staff in Clare County Council’s Housing Department are doing a wonderful job in trying to support those in our county who so desperately need housing but the time-frame for building new housing units but that does not mean that other efficient ways of amassing housing stock should be dismissed. It typically takes 2 years from the time the idea to build a Council house is conceived to the time when a tenant gets to move in. Delays can typically involve site procurement, planning, obtaining funding and tendering for the entire project. SPVs don’t have to operate as public bodies do and have the potential to raise loans quicker and achieve a lot in a shorter time frame.

In England local authorities have, for several years, used SPVs to build and buy new housing stock. Lambeth Borough Council in South-London is a good example. In October of 2015 the members of Lambeth Borough Council voted to establish a Housing SPV. Although operating on a far larger scale than Clare County Council, Lambeth Borough Council are currently in the process of building in excess of 400 new houses. A YouTube video explaining how all of this works can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5IheInBB-o 

A Housing SPV could buy and build houses and lease these back to the Council on a long-term basis. The SPV could raise capital quickly and plough any profits made back into the Council’s Housing Department. The red-tape of public procurement and tendering could also be circumnavigated.

Some will undoubtedly have reservations for my proposal (see attached written response from Mr. Liam Conneally, Director of Housing, Clare County Council) but I think it deserves further exploration before being ruled in or out.

As a Councillor I am inundated, on a weekly basis, with phone calls and emails from people who cannot find accommodation of any sort. I know of people that spend their weeks moving from one friend’s couch to another. Others scour AirBnB and budget hotels in the area to try to find cheap short-term accommodation. We need to think of innovative and fast-delivery mechanisms for helping these people.

ENDS. For further information / comment please contact Cllr. Cathal Crowe: (087) 1368882

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Cllr Gabriel Keating

I refer to your recent correspondence regarding the housing crisis in Clare.

As a County Councillor representing the North West Municipal District, I am actively working with the Local Authority and with various community groups on a daily basis to support people in need of housing.  It was my motion back in 2014 which prompted Clare County Council to identify and develop a database of all unoccupied houses in this County.  I have long held the view that we need to do more to bring vacant units back into use.

I have tabled a number of motions at Local Authority Meetings to encourage the utilisation of these properties to address our Social Housing Lists.  One of those motions was instrumental in securing support at National Level for the introduction of a Repair and Leasing Scheme whereby €32 million has been made available to the owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding required to renovate these properties and bring them up to the standard for letting to Social Housing tenants.

On a practical level, I actively seek accommodation for people who require support.  Recently I have secured housing for 3 people who were made homeless, two in my own parish and one in the adjoining Parish.

While there is no one quick fix solution, I believe that a combination of initiatives including the upgrade of vacant properties and the plan by the various Housing Agencies to buy vacant properties the construction of new local authority homes combined with the measures announced in the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland will improve the situation for people in need.

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Cllr Christy Curtain 

I would recommend a collaborative approach by Clare County Council (Housing Authority) with the relevant stakeholders to address the ongoing issue of the housing situation in the County. This model of joint participation with a representative group will give added impetus to a renewed effort by the Housing Authority working through the SPC Housing and the Corporate Body to focus directly and expeditiously on the real and URGENT housing needs of the population.

I would urge immediate action in the following Areas:

1) UP-DATE on the current social housing allocation Scheme,

2) Review and analysis of the Current Register of Qualified Households to establish the categories waiting times and locations of households on the list.

3) The engagement of a Rural Resettlement Officer in Clare with a specific housing brief to work in liaison with the Municipal District Offices and the Social and Rural Development Directorates within the Council.

4) An Accelerated Programme of building of Local Authority Social Housing to be funded by the Government.

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Cllr Ian Lynch

Housing is an area that takes up a large portion of my dealing with the public and I recognize this is a national issues but needs to be addressed at a local level. To ensure that an appropriate strategy is agreed and implemented this must be implemented as a unit moving forward together with shared values.  On that note if feel that the Housing SPC, which includes the CPPN, is best positioned to deliver a united front to ensure that we develop, agree and peruse the correct strategy for county Clare.

 

Those are the responses we have got so far, we’ll update this article when we get any more.