Fine Gael Give Housing Minister Some Home Truths

By Seamus Whelehan

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Cork County Councillors have issued a “wake up call” to the Government as they struggle to supply social and affordable housing.   The Council has a target to construct 3,000 units a year up to 2040 under the National Planning Framework, but only delivered 1250 new build homes last year.

Despite being in the midst of a housing crisis Council top brass are hoarding land that could see the developed of thousands of homes because they would lose on their investment.

The Local Authority took out a loan for nearly €50million between 2000 -2003 to purchase the lands at the height of the boom to develop social housing, industrial sites and schools.

Cllr Kevin Murphy told a full sitting of council on Monday depreciation and the cost of maintaining the county’s land bank are making it too expensive for the council to “beef up” their housing supply.

The Fine Gael leader in Cork County said the Housing Minister must introduce incentives to increase the supply of social housing such as covering the depreciated value of key development lands and increases in interest on the Councils loan.

“Some of the general public think land costs are not an issue because we own the land but it’s not a freebie.” he said.

Cllr Seamus McGrath who backed Cllr Murphy’s motion said while there are plans in place for social housing they are frustratingly slow but they will come.

The Fianna Fail Cllr said what was of greater concern was the lack of affordable housing schemes for the squeezed middle.

“There is a huge cohort where affordable housing is the answer…but there is no real prospect of that happening anytime soon.”

“We need to get funding for land costs so that Local Authorities can develop affordable housing schemes as well as social housing schemes. Funding is there for Social housing schemes it’s not for affordable schemes and that’s the bottom line” commented Cllr McGrath.

Independent Cllr Noel Collins said “the housing crisis is worsening in East Cork by the day resulting in some cases with 6 sleeping in a double bed, a situation that can lead to other social problems.”

Last week Cork County Council put forward 5 sites in the County where they want to construct properties to sell off at below market value.

The five areas currently under review by the Housing Minister are in Midleton, Carrigaline, Mallow, Clonakilty, and Kinsale.

In a written report to council the Authority’s Director of Housing Michael Lynch said while the lack of housing supply is varied and multifaceted  the Cllrs request was one “that could contribute to addressing the acute housing supply issue.”

He said “the net effect is the lack of supply is generating unstable levels of competition across all strata of the housing market. Uncertainty amongst the development sector as to the market demand and affordability of higher density housing outside of City Centre locations.”

The Public representatives have written to Minister Eoughan Murphy and Minister Damien English requesting he offset the cost of lands the Council has ceded for the development of social and affordable housing.

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