Aras an Chontae, the Castlebar HQ of Mayo County Council.

Divisions in Mayo over action plan to deal with rogue tenants

SIGNIFICANT divisions have emerged over a new anti-social behaviour strategy in respect of properties managed and supported by Mayo County Council.

Elected members have signalled their intent to withdraw housing subsidies to landlords of houses where tenants are involved in activities that cause stress and anxiety for their neighbours.

This 'get tough' approach is motivated by incidents in estates in towns across the county where residents have been left living in fear due to aggressive and violent behaviour - and the situation appears to be getting worse.

The council pays out significant sums of money every year in subsidies, including the housing assistance payment (HAP) and the rental accommodation scheme (RAS). And elected members believe that stopping these payments would have a major impact on addressing this problem.

However, it has been the view of the council executive that successful resolution of anti-social behaviour can only be achieved based on a multi-agency partnership approach to include the gardaí, HSE and Tusla.

This approach is supported in a submission to the drafting of the new policy by Leanne Barrett of Mayo Public Participation Network (PPN), a community representative on the council's housing strategic policy committee.

She outlined: “Punitive measures and sanctions have not been shown to significantly reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour, nor have they served any great deal in acting as a preventer of issues arising from such behaviour.

Case studies and international evidence would suggest that engagement with communities has proven to best address this behaviour. A sense of ownership and pride in one’s place can be a significant deterrent from negatively impacting upon that place.

“A proactive and progressive response would be to identify key estates in the county with particularly high incidents of anti-social behaviour and assign a community worker or workers to engage the estate and its residents.”

However, Councillor Michael Kilcoyne said the multi-agency approach has not worked and there is an onus on elected members to support law-abiding citizens who lives are disturbed by anti-social behaviour.

“There is not an elected representative in this county who has not received a complaint about problems in one or a number of their local housing estates. I would say there is cross-party support for a stricter and more punitive anti-social behaviour strategy. We also want to see An Garda Síochána playing a more central role in dealing with the issue.”

Councillors serving on the council's housing SPC support anonymous complaints being investigated and that investigations should commence within 10 days of a complaint being made.