Ruthless landlords in Kerry are serving tenants with notices to vacate their properties because they think they can “make a massive amount of money” if they provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, it has been claimed.
A meeting of Kerry County Council on Friday was told that new regulations are needed to offer greater protection to residents by extending the amount of time required to force them to quit a premises.
Cllr John Francis Flynn said he has “massive sympathy for the Ukrainians” but he is being contacted, on a daily basis, by people in mid Kerry who are being handed notices to vacate their accommodation because landlords want to see what it’s worth to them to house refugees.
“They think it’s a massive amount of money. They know the hotels will soon be full and they’ll have to go to private houses,” he said.
Cllr Flynn said Kerry County Council’s number one priority should be to protect Irish families and ensure they can find their own accommodation.
“We have been fighting to house them for 10 or 15 years,” he said.
Cllr Niall O’Callaghan highlighted the plight of a young man working in Killarney who had his accommodation terminated and is now couch-surfing, even though he offered his landlord more money.
“His only option is to present as homeless but have we facilities for our homeless? Is there any accommodation left for that young fella?” he asked
Cllr O’Callaghan said there was a housing emergency in Kerry even before the Ukrainian refugees arrived but it now appears there is no pathway for the young man in question to find a place to stay.
“We have to get the balance right and look after our own as well as Ukrainians,” he remarked.
Cllr Mike Kennelly told the meeting that he was aware of one 85-year-old woman who was served notice to quit her accommodation in October but, he insisted, despite the bad behaviour of landlords, it’s vital that the hand of friendship is extended to people arriving in the county from Ukraine.
“They will be with us for a long time so I would urge all the agencies involved to look for longer options to accommodate them.
“Some will be with us forever – they will have nothing to go back to,” he remarked.
Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Marie Moloney, commended Kerry County Council for the leading role it is playing in providing shelter for Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the war.
She stressed that people have pledged rooms in their homes in goodwill with no expectation of payment but they are not being contacted by the authorities.
Cllr Moloney said people on the housing list locally are contacting councillors asking how accommodation can be found for the refugees so readily while people are on the housing list for years and they seem to be moving nowhere.
“We have to handle it very delicately,” she said.
Cllr Michael D O’Shea asked the chief executive of Kerry County Council and the director of housing what impact the refugees coming into the county will have on the allocation of social housing in the future?
He said he “heard it on the radio” that thousands of bedspaces are available with accommodation in every town and every village.
“You need to have a conversation with us as we have people on the list for housing for 15 or 20 years,” he told officials.
The council stressed that the social housing stock cannot be used for the accommodation of refugees so the current housing stock will be unaffected.
The local authority has been asked to identify sites where a medium term potential existed for the development of more permanent accommodation solution for refugees where it would not conflict with council social housing plans.
Cllr Michael Cahill said the crisis in the Ukraine and the arrival of refugees brought huge attention to the housing situation and it was great to see the government’s response.
He asked council officials to provide an update list of properties and land available and, he said, all avenues must be investigated to source suitable housing stock for fit changing needs.
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