In our September 30th 2005 edition, The Munster Express ran a story headlined ‘City woman waiting three years for housing transfer’.
The story detailed the experiences of a Waterford city woman who was, in her words “living in fear” in her home, located in one of the city’s largest housing estates.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of further incidents occurring at her home, had pleaded her case through a litany of letters posted to local and national politicians.
She told this newspaper that she would continue to write such letters until her ordeal would be brought to a close. She felt this would come about upon her re-accommodation by the Council in a house in another part of the city.
Over two years later, some five years after her first housing transfer request was lodged with City Hall, her wait continues.
“These are just some of the letters I’ve sent in the past two years,” she said, opening up several thick files of letters and correspondences from Councillors and TDs. “I’ve got two bagfuls of them at home.”
Last summer, she made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to enquire about the status of her housing transfer application.
In particular, she sought to see where she was placed on the housing list, something frequently spoken about by those hoping to be allocated local authority housing.
On June 5th, she received a reply to her request from Waterford City Council.
It read: “I would like to acknowledge and reply to your (FOI) request forwarded to me on 2nd June 2007 by the Housing Department in relation to your transfer application request…
“Waterford City Council transfer applications are not awarded points but are given on medical and/or overcrowding grounds.
“As a consequence, there is no list and as the information sought does not exist, your request is refused under Section 10 (1)(a) of the (FOI) Act which states that a request may be refused if: ‘the record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain its whereabouts have been taken.'”
This reply left its recipient exasperated. “So there is no such thing as list then, at least that’s my understanding,” said the woman in our offices on Friday last. “I’ve been sent from pillar to post on this and I honestly don’t know why.”
She added: “If my request was to be considered on medical grounds – well, there is a medical issue here. My doctor wants to put me on anti-depressants but that’s a road I’m not prepared to go down.
“Letters referring to my medical problems have been sent to the City Council but that hasn’t led anywhere either. I honestly don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything.”
Waterford City Council’s Housing Office was contacted for a comment regarding this woman’s ongoing wait for a transfer but no reply was forthcoming before we went to press.
The anti-social problems outlined to this newspaper two years ago in this part of the city are ongoing, according to the woman who, in her view, has borne the completely unwarranted brunt of proceedings.
“My house was mudballed three years ago,” she said. “The marks are still there on the walls. They’re still there because I wouldn’t allow the City Council to do the remedial work when they were doing up the houses around there at the time.”
Why? “Because, every time I stepped out of the house around that time, I was told by a few people how they were looking forward to wrecking the front of my house once the work got done. And after all I’d already gone through at that stage; I just wasn’t prepared to go through that…
“I can’t invite a friend to my house because their cars’ll get damaged if they leave them out the front. I had to replace my front window five times in the space of a year and a half but I’m not going to replace it again. What’s the point? It’ll just be broken on me.”
The illegal dumping of rubbish at the rear of her property, an ongoing problem she’s had to put up with for the past five years, has intensified of late. “There’s been 27 bags taken out in the last few weeks. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know why people have decided to do this to me.”
In a letter to her dated May 8th, Senator Brendan Kenneally wrote: “Since your recent letter I have been in touch with the Housing Office again for you regarding your request but unfortunately they have informed me they are not in a position to accede to this at present and couldn’t indicate when you might get a move.”
He continued: “They told me they are not getting transfers now on grounds of anti-social behaviour. They will only contemplate moving tenants on medical grounds. I am sorry there was not better news I could bring you in relation to this.”
Packing away her files at the end of our conversation, the woman lamented: “All I want is a quiet life.”
Five years after her initial request for a housing transfer, the pursuit of that quiet life continues.