Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Almost 1,000 refugees are in Waterford, but none have been given social housing 

THE continued stream Ukrainian refugees arriving to our shores is placing “phenomenal pressure” on accommodation, according to CEO of Waterford City and County Council. Michael Walsh says no one knows how many more will arrive here over the coming months. At the peak 800 refugees were arriving per day, but this has dropped to 200-250 daily. There’s a suggestion that the numbers are being influenced by travel costs during the peak of the summer season, he said.  

“There’s still a significant stream coming in… I can absolutely assure you that there is phenomenal pressure on accommodation,” he added.  

Student accommodation is currently being used, but this won’t be available come September.  

“There will be phenomenal pressure on us post that period again and we don’t know what the ask will be of us,” he said. Mr Walsh said Waterford Council is seeking to progress pledged and shared accommodation.  

 

Waterford 

During the June Plenary meeting, Cllr James Tobin (FF) sought an update on the numbers of refugees coming to Waterford from the Ukraine and how many have been homed since their arrival. 

Director of Services for housing, Ivan Grimes outlined that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Waterford since the outbreak of the war. Some are being accommodated in private houses with family and friends, 300 are in hotels in Waterford city and Tramore, and there’s a capacity of 225 in reception centres in Waterford city and Dungarvan.  

“We are hoping to hand back the two sports halls and avail of alternative accommodation in Waterford city and Dungarvan over the next couple of weeks,” he said.  

More than half of 181 properties pledged through the Irish Red Cross and Waterford Council have been inspected and 63 families have been moved into these properties. This process is taking time as the best matches have to be found for each property in terms of location and schools etc, he said. They are looking to identify other long term accommodation options. 

Responding to Cllr John O’Leary (FF), Mr Grimes said the numbers arriving have slowed down over the last couple of weeks, but admitted “that could change”. 

Data, released by the Central Statistics Office, shows that 35,670 people arrived from Ukraine up until June 5. The stats were based on the amount of PPS numbers issued. The vast majority of the arrivals were female with just over 12,000 males. However, over half of those males were under the age of 19.  

 

Social housing 

Cllr Jim Griffin (SF) said the rumour out in the public domain is that Ukrainian refugees are being offered social houses. He was sure this was not the case, but sought clarification from the Council executive. According to Cllr Joe Conway (Ind) the narrative that the wheels of the system are “unfairly greased” in the Ukrainians’ favour is unfortunately starting to grow despite the reality.  

Mr Grimes clarified that none of the houses matched to Ukrainian refugees are social housing. “They won’t be and that’s a policy,” he said. However, into the future tenants may be allowed to take in refugees if they have a spare room. “That isn’t the case at the moment. The properties that we are matching have been pledged by private property owners. They are second homes, holiday homes, granny flats. They are not part of the social housing stock and we are being very careful to keep the two separate.”  

 

Ukrainian ambassador  

Mayor of Waterford city and County Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) stated that the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko visited Waterford on Tuesday last. She expressed her thanks to Waterford Council and the public after receiving a lot of feedback from members of the Ukrainian community, who felt integrated and welcomed into the Waterford community. 

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