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Red tape and ‘jumping through hoops' is delaying delivery of urgent housing

January 31st, 2018 7:10 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

The Spraoi na Laoi playground in Ballingeary is part of a development by Coiste Tithe Uibh Laoire, which includes a purpose-built community centre and childcare facility. (See panel, right)

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IN a week that local Fianna Fail Deputy Murphy O’Mahony revealed the number of people on Cork County Council’s housing list has increased by more than 8% in just 12 months, councillors have slammed the slow progress in providing homes.

Local councillors are now calling for the government to let Cork County Council get on with the job of providing social housing, claiming that ‘bureaucracy and jumping through hoops’ was delaying the urgent delivery of homes.

At a recent meeting of the local authority, Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) sought a report into the Council’s plans for social housing in zoned Council lands that are currently not part of the planning process. He asked that those vacant sites be progressed to Part 8 planning (public consultation) as a matter of urgency.

‘What prompted my motion was while there was not very much capital expenditure in the Government budget in 2018 for housing construction, there is further extra monies being provided in 2019, and therefore any local authority who wants to construct extra social housing should be ready for 2019 and catch the tide,’ said Cllr O’Grady.

He said the ‘elephant in the room’ is the fact that the Council is not constructing any social houses.

‘Looking at the report there are 45 sites mentioned and 24 of them have yet to be assessed. That’s an absolute disgrace – 10 years into a housing crisis, we have 24 sites waiting to be assessed, that’s up to 100 acres of land as far as I can make out.

‘I’m afraid this won’t just cut it and we need the Council to be building large scale housing developments and the government needs to be providing funding. What has happened up to now is pitiful.’

Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said that in 2014 councillors were shown plans for the proposed Beechgrove Estate in Clonakilty, which would contain up to 56 houses but he pointed out that it is only going to (Part 8) planning this month. 

He said it was the same with plans for social housing on serviced sites in Courtmacsherry. ‘It’s the length of time here. We’re sitting on our own land and the amount of  bureaucracy and hoops that the local authority has to jump through to get to Part 8 stages is too much,’ said Cllr Hayes.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that judging by the amount of applicants on the Council waiting list that they should progress some of the Part 8s where there is a demand for housing.

‘We now have ministers telling us that finance is not a problem, but basically we are not ready to proceed and we’re never ready. 

‘The whole system has ground down to a very slow pace. For example, we have land that is being leased to Clúid Housing Development that was bought 17 years ago in Kinsale and not a single house has been built on it yet,’ said Cllr Murphy.

Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) pointed out that the Council isn’t being given a free hand and that there are too many checks.

‘It’s the oversights, checkings and approvals that are causing the delays and it’s very unfair to be laying the blame with the Council. But the key point I want to make is that the Department needs to let us get on with the job that needs to be done,’ said Cllr McGrath.

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said that every target has been met and exceeded in terms of delivering their social housing programme and pointed that the Council are, in fact, building houses.

‘We have plans for 420 social housing units on 27 sites in various locations around the county and there are also proposals for the development of 392 social houses in 19 turnkey developments (private lands) in other locations, so that’s 812 houses across 46 sites,’ said Mr Lucey.

Mr Lucey added that the metropolitan area of the county is the most challenging in terms of securing land for future development.

This week Cork South West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said that ‘despite all the hot air and chest beating from Fine Gael ministers and TDs’, the number of people on Cork County Council’s housing list has increased by more than 8% in the past year.

‘This figure is all the more scandalous when one realises that hundreds of people in Co Cork have been moved off the housing list as they have been transferred to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme,’ she added.

Figures released recently to Fianna Fáil show an increase of 350, from 4,241 in 2016 to 4,591 in 2017, for Cork county.

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