Call for grants for council houses, not just private sector

Councillors are asking for more say in how housing grants for elderly and disable people are given out, because currently they cannot be spent on local authority houses.

Councillors are asking for more say in how housing grants for elderly and disable people are given out, because currently they cannot be spent on local authority houses.

Cllr Maurice Shortall (Lab) raised the issue at this month’s meeting of Kilkenny County Council, saying: “While the €2.5 million for the housing adaptation grants scheme for older people and people with a disability has been a fantastic boost, not one cent from that significant allocation will go to tenants in local authority homes.”

He said that as landlords the council has a “moral, social and inclusive obligation” to find funding to “ensure our tenants are no longer classed as second-rate citizens”

Cllr Shortall said there were more than 40 local authority tenants waiting for such grants and that in some case the wait is over 18 months. He cited a 75-year-old woman who has to use her sister’s house to wash twice a week and a man who had two hip replacements and “must continue to hobble and be elevated manually into a bath.”

“I have seen the benefits of the adaptation scheme across North Kilkenny both in badly needed employment and also improving elderly accommodation but surely it is a social shame to exclude our own tenants from the equation,” Cllr Shortall said.

Cllr Matt Doran (FF) agreed: “We are actually discriminating against local authority residents. Kilkenny County Council are not, but I think the powers-that-be are.”

Director of services John McCormack said that at present the council was not allowed to spend the grants on local authority homes.

“Very generous allocations have allowed us to move down the priority list in the private sector but it is true we are precluded from using that on our own properties,” he said.

Instead the council has to use money from sales of local authority houses to cover the cost, and “that is a diminishing resource. We haven’t got it at this stage.”

Cllr Tom Maher (FG) said the council should ask for more flexibility in spending the funds so that local authority homes can be covered too.