FORTY homes will be provided for Travellers in Laois over the next five years, as part of a county council plan.
The proposals include 37 standard houses and three units at an existing halting site in Portlaoise.
The figures are contained in the draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019-2024, which was presented at a Laois County Council meeting last week.
Director of services Michael Rainey said the council supplied 48 housing units for Travellers over the past five years, exceeding its target of 41 units. The recommended number for the next five years is 40 units.
The draft plan reveals that most Travellers requesting county council accommodation want to live in a house rather than a caravan or mobile home. A survey of 49 Traveller housing applicants in the county found that 43 want to live in standard social housing.
The survey found that 43% of Traveller applicants are currently in private rented accommodation; 29% are staying with family or friends; 26% are in roadside caravans or homeless emergency accommodation; and 2% are in “temporary institutional settings”. Meanwhile, 15 (30%) out of 50 Traveller applicants reported having a particular housing need due to a disability or a medical condition.
The report also states that two applicants asked for Traveller Group Housing, but this would not be provided, while four wanted halting site space and this would be provided.
The 2019-2024 draft programme says that the Oakpark halting site in Portlaoise will be enlarged from one bay to four bays to accommodate the extended family of the existing residents. A second site is not currently required. The plan states: “Most encampments of transient Traveller families have been relatively small and short-term stays.”
Mr Rainey told the council meeting that there were no submissions on the draft plan during the public consultation period, which cllr Catherine Fitzgerald felt was very unusual. However, Mr Rainey said it was probably mainly due to ongoing engagement and consultation with the council’s Traveller Accommodation Committee over the past three months, while the plan was being drawn up.
Cllr Tom Mulhall complimented the county council on the plan. Cllr John Joe Fennelly said he was “delighted” that the council exceeded its target for Traveller housing units over the past five years, particularly as other councils around the country did not meet their full allocation. The plan is expected to be approved at the September meeting of Laois County Council.
Figures included in the draft plan show that there are an estimated 196 Traveller households in Laois. The 2016 census recorded 780 individual Travellers in the county, 401 males and 379 females, with the biggest percentage in the 0-14 age group. However, the plan says the number may be higher because many “do not disclose their Traveller identity, often for fear of discrimination”.
The plan also notes that, according to the 2016 census, 58% of Travellers are aged under-25 compared with just 33% of the general population. Nearly a quarter (23%) of Travellers aged 15 to 24 are married, compared with only 1% of the general population in the same age group. More than one in four Traveller households comprise six or more people, compared with less than one in 20 households in the settled community.