Local authorities not lending to Travellers to buy caravans

Councils cited a high level of arrears and a lack of demand for the scheme

Fingal and Meath county councils provided 210 and 88 loans respectively in the 17-year period, while Cork and Louth county councils provided just two and one respectively.

Fingal and Meath county councils provided 210 and 88 loans respectively in the 17-year period, while Cork and Louth county councils provided just two and one respectively.

 

Most local authorities are not lending to Travellers to buy caravans or mobile homes, despite being funded by Government to do so.

The caravan loan scheme was introduced in 2000 to help Travellers improve their living conditions and provide their own accommodation. An unpublished report from the Housing Agency, however, finds just 12 of the 31 local authorities offer the scheme and among those that do it is operated inconsistently.

Between 2000 and 2016 some 1,121 loans were provided, worth just over €6.25 million. Fingal and Meath county councils provided 210 and 88 respectively in the 17-year period, while Cork and Louth county councils provided just two and one respectively.

Recommendations

The report recommends the scheme be “revised and expanded” and that caravans be approved and procured at a national level, rather than locally by individual councils.

Currently, just 12 councils offer loans to Travellers under the scheme, though 30 have done. Most councils that stopped cited a high level of arrears and a lack of demand. Some that have ceased the scheme, however, including Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Dublin city, are considering reintroducing it this year, saying there is a need for it.

“Three local authorities said there had been implications on Travellers in their area of not operating a scheme and these were all urban [councils] . . . All thought the suspension of the scheme was negatively impacting on the quality of accommodation and that housing shortages had led to . . . overcrowding in caravans.”

Local authorities told the agency: “Caravan loans are mainly being provided to young families with young children, typically those wanting to remain close to the extended family and already occupants of a halting site.”

Since 2011, the number of Traveller families living in caravans on halting sites has been “steadily increasing” – from 1,247 in 2011 to 1,469 in 2016. From 2012, city councils saw an almost 200 per cent increase in the number of families in unauthorised sites – from 69 in 2012 to 205 in 2015.

As well as recommending expansion of the scheme and a national procurement framework, the agency says the Department of Housing should investigate reinstating the “lough payment scheme” where loans can be repaid by having a portion of a welfare recipient’s payment deducted at source and redirected to creditors.

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing, Eoin Ó Broin, called on the department to “urgently implement” the recommendations.