Social housing unit’s sale sees call for resignation

by Sylvia Pownall

THERE have been calls for homeless advocate Cllr Francis Timmons (Ind) to resign from a housing network after he voted in favour of selling a social housing unit in Clondalkin.
The house – at 1A St Patrick’s Road – was built in 2006 but has remained vacant and boarded up ever since – at a cost of more than €600,000 to the taxpayer.
The Clondalkin and Lucan Housing Network (CLHN) held an emergency meeting on Tuesday night where several members said Cllr Timmons’ position on the committee was untenable.
After a heated debate, the committee agreed to write to him in the hope that he might reverse his decision when the issue is put to a Section 183 vote in the council chamber.
CLHN founder Sean Phelan told The Gazette: “Voting to sell a piece of social housing stock on the private market is a conflict of interest and it goes against our ethos.”
He added: “We are in the midst of a housing crisis and what he did goes against our principals.”
Cllr Timmons, who established Clondalkin Helping Homeless in 2014 and has been active in lobbying for more social housing, defended his actions.
He told The Gazette: “I, along with 21 others, voted to honour a commitment that was given to the residents. Fifteen councillors voted differently, which is their choice.
“I have and will still advocate and fight for the homeless. I am a strong proponent of a hostel in our area and a staunch opponent of the direct provision system.
“My decision was not a vote against the homeless, but I strongly feel that when the council gives commitments to local areas these should be honoured.”
Councillors voted by 22 to 15 in favour of selling the house on St Patrick’s Road – citing a verbal agreement to do so with residents in 2006 – after spending over €600k on construction costs, a boundary wall and protracted legal wrangling over the purchase of an adjoining strip of land.
Council officials have admitted it will not recoup all the money spent and it will not be possible to earmark income from the sale to buy other social housing stock.
Cllr Mark Ward (SF), who voted against the sale, said he was flabbergasted that the council would sell one of their limited housing stock “during the biggest housing crisis in the history of the State”.
He told The Gazette: “This was Donald Trump-like politics – ‘I’m going to build a wall and the Mexi-cans are going to pay for it’ – but in this case it’s a vulnerable family on the council’s medical priority list who is going to pay for this €160,000 wall.
“The proceeds from the sale of this house will be used to furnish the debt it cost to build it, which has now exceeded €600,000. There is no gain for anyone on the housing list.”
Cllr Ward also voiced his disappointment with area colleagues Cllr Timmons (Ind) and Cllr Kenneth Egan (FG) for failing to take part in the debate and voting in favour of the sale.
Cllr Egan told The Gazette: “I take Mark’s comment with a pinch of salt. I was swaying toward social [housing] at the beginning of this situation until I received all information regarding the word given by the council.”

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