Respond residents in Laois are still concerned they could be forced to move to smaller houses, with the housing body’s failure to meet with tenants not helping the situation.
At the monthly meeting of Portlaoise Municipal Authority today, dissatisfaction was also expressed that further information on the situation was not available from the housing department of the council.
Municipal cathaoirleach Cllr John Joe Fennelly agreed to call to the housing department at the end of the meeting, and said he was also willing to chair a meeting with Respond.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley had a motion before the meeting seeking requesting that the council contact Respond Housing and ask them to consult with their tenants and take their concerns into consideration prior to any new tenancy agreement being put in place.
She said one male tenant felt he was “blackmailed” into signing the agreement and is now concerned that he could be downgraded to a smaller house.
A written response from the council confirmed they will contact Respond and ask them to consult with their tenants on tenancy agreements.
One difficulty for tenants is the increase of the size of a deposit, which has doubled from €260 to €520. “It is a big jump. I know an elderly woman who has had to borrow that money from a relative,” she said.
Tenants also have to be compliant with payment of water charges. “I am disappointed that Irish Water took on the role of vanguard for Irish Water,” she said.
The major concern, however, is that families might have to downsize when a family member grows up and moves into private accommodation. “If people no longer require a four bed house then they may have to downgrade,” Cllr Dwane Stanley said.
Tenants were due to sign the new agreement on March 2. Cllr Dwane Stanley said she had asked Respond to postpone this and hold a meeting to inform tenants first. “I received a response that that process was in place… but by yesterday evening no meeting has been facilitated,” she said.
She said residents of Mill Court in Portlaoise and Gort na Nor in Abbeyleix are affected by the new tenancy agreement.
She acknowledged that Respond Housing is – “one of the better housing authorities out there. They do great work”.
Cllr Fennelly said he was disappointed that Respond had not held a meeting with the tenants. “My understanding is that the tenants didn’t have to sign the new agreement,” he said.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said she was disappointed with the vague response from the council. She said that she had read in a newspaper article that Respond had apologised.
She added that the council should take a big interest in the situation as many Respond tenants came from the council housing list.”Everyone here recommended Respond,” she told the meeting.
Director of Services Kieran Kehoe said they could not guarantee they could get further information from the housing department that day, but he said they had given an undertaking to contact Respond.
He added that they could only reply to the notice of motion, not a newspaper report.
It would have been best to consult with tenants, Cllr Noel Tuohy said.
Cllr Willie Aird proposed they request representatives of Respond Housing attend one of their future meetings.