Council's venture to boost housing is ‘a first'

December 18th, 2018 10:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

A sod turning for 40 social housing units in Kinsale recenlty. (Photo: David Creedon)

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A JOINT venture between Cork County Council and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) will significantly advance the opportunity for the delivery of housing, a meeting of the local authority was told.

In a first for any local authority in the country, Cork County Council and the ISIF have reached an agreement to establish a joint venture company to accelerate delivery of new homes by providing crucial infrastructure such as roads, water, footpaths and cycle paths.

Both Cork County Council and ISIF will each provide seed capital of €1.5m to the venture, with each taking a 50% share in what will be a fully commercial entity that is expected to begin operations in the first quarter of 2019. 

Councillors were also told that it will support the accelerated delivery of new homes in Cork on a pilot basis, but has the potential to extend to other cities and large towns.

Council chief executive Tim Lucey described the joint venture as ‘a new product to the market’ and a new way of ‘plugging a significant gap in the market that will advance the opportunity for the delivery of housing.’

‘Let’s be clear that this is building infrastructure to facilitate housing. It will bring a level of viability to the market and such a venture is not in the market at the moment,’ said Mr Lucey

Michael Lynch, director of services and planning for the Council said this joint venture is about ‘putting conditions in place to deliver housing’ and it will help to provide the infrastructure to develop sites.

Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) said there is an obvious gap in the market for the venture and said it’s a fantastic initiative, in that the Council is going one step further in ensuring there is a financial incentive for developers in providing housing. While his colleague Cllr Joe Carroll described it as a ‘landmark scheme’ and said that councillors should be seen supporting it.

Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) also welcomed the announcement as he said one of the greatest impediments for developers is getting finance.

‘This can unlock key strategic sites for us,’ said Cllr Hegarty.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said it was a ‘super initiative’ that would open up sites across the county and that ‘it’s a no-brainer as it will help in the delivery of housing.’

However, several councillors including Paul Hayes (SF) questioned if there was scope to change the percentage of social and affordable houses from 10%, but was told that legislation would be required for these changes.

Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) also queried about the financial risks that such a scheme would have for the Council and said they needed to proceed with caution. 

But Mr Lucey said there will be ‘no risk’ to the Council which will be putting €150,000 per annum into the venuture.

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