Councillors in the Manorhamilton Municipal District were far from impressed with the number of applications received under the Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) with one councillor saying it has “little or no relevance to rural communities” and another describing it as “a complete waste of time.”
Cllr Padraig Fallon raised the matter at their recent meeting by seeking a breakdown of the applications received by each municipal district under the RLS.
He was told in reply that there has been some interest in the Repair and Leasing Scheme in Leitrim, however, most of the queries or applications received are for houses in rural locations where the Council has no social housing demand or where the allowed budget would not return the properties to a useable state due to their poor condition.
Applications for the RLS per municipal districts are:
Manorhamilton MD - Three applications were received and all applications were for rural properties. None of the properties were deemed suitable for the RLS scheme as they are not in an area of housing need.
Ballinamore MD - One application was received. The application was assessed and the property was deemed unsuitable as there are a number of fire safety issues with the house. Refurbishment works required on the property would greatly exceed the funding available under the RLS scheme.
Carrick-on-Shannon MD - No applications were received.
WHAT IS THE REPAIR AND LEASING SCHEME?
The Repair and Leasing Scheme has been developed under Rebuilding Ireland to assist property owners in bringing vacant properties back into use.
Where a property requires repairs to bring it up to the standard required for rented properties, the RLS will pay for the repairs up front in return for the property being leased to a local authority or Approved Housing Body (AHB) to be used as social housing for a period of at least 10 years.
Under the scheme, the cost of repairs will be repaid by the owner by offsetting it against the rent due to the owner for the property over the period of the lease agreement. The maximum funding available is €40,000, inclusive of VAT.
The Council stated that a number of queries via email and phone have also been received by the Housing Department. The property owner may have been seeking advice in relation to terms and conditions of the scheme, areas of housing need.
“As there is a shortage of rental properties in the tier 1 towns in Leitrim, landlords are achieving sufficient tenancy rates in the normal private rental market, including short term lets, before supplying the social rental market.
“This has resulted in the limited interest in this scheme in these areas which are also the towns of greatest social housing need,” the Council reply stated.
Cllr Fallon said that this scheme was launched to an “awful lot of fanfare” and at the time it did seem to have some possibilities.
However, he said that on making enquiries for constituents, he was disappointed that a target of only six was set for Leitrim.
“It is of little use and has little or no relevance to rural communities here in north Leitrim,” he said, adding that it was primarily Carrick-on-Shannon that was being looked at as it is the area of highest demand.
Cllr Mary Bohan was in agreement and described the scheme as “an absolute waste of time as far as rural areas or villages are concerned.”
She said it is not working and is only going to work in larger urban areas.
Cllr Fallon tabled a follow-up motion at the meeting in relation to what, if any, incentives or supports exist or are available through Leitrim County Council to assist in bringing long term vacant property back into use in north Leitrim and he said it was ironic that the reply to his motion directed him to the Repair and Leasing Scheme.
“It strikes me as somewhat ironic that the reply referred to the Repair and Leasing Scheme. Essentially it means that no supports are available,” he said.
Director of Services, Mary Quinn, said the schemes are under review at the moment and there will be alterations to them.
Cllr Fallon asked that the local authority write to both Minister Michael Ring's Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Finance initiating contact to explore and examine the possibility of funds being made available to bring long term vacant properties back into use.
“There are a number of such properties across the county in our towns, villages and in the countryside,” he said.
Cllr Bohan, meanwhile, called for the reintroduction of the reconstruction grant. “There are houses that could be improved if funding was made available. There is nothing there at the moment,” she said.
Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Frank Dolan agreed and said the last scheme was oversubscribed.