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West Cork set to benefit as Council targets 2,500 social houses by 2020

July 8th, 2019 3:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

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ALMOST 2,500 social housing units are to be developed by the County Council before the end of 2020.

Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF), chairman of the Western Committee, described the ambitious target set out by the Council’s director of housing, Maurice Manning, as ‘phenomenal.’

The local authority has already been credited with bucking the national trend when it comes to dealing with what is a national housing crisis.

Cllr Murphy said: ‘The figures tell the story, but with 1,950 on the housing list in the western division, every build or purchase is vital.’ 

Maurice Manning confirmed that 536 social housing units were provided in 2018, and that work is progressing on providing 727 more this year.

However, with an estimated 264 local authority builds due to be completed in 2020, the target for the end of that year is 1,230.

The figures not only include local authority builds, it also factors in acquisitions, turnkey developments, voids, and the Council’s buy and renew scheme amongst others.

A summary of the current construction programme, shows that in West Cork there are 10 houses at the preliminary stage, with 40 at the design stage, 63 at the stage of going to tender, and 34 currently under construction.

Mr Manning confirmed that a proposed turnkey development for Bantry – that would have seen the construction of 52 housing units at Milleencoola – is being appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

However, he said six turnkey houses are being built at Beacon Point in Baltimore, three in Bantry, 20 in Dunmanway, and seven in Schull as part of the turnkey programme. 

Turnkey means that the developer provides the Council with the complete product and all they have to do is turn the key.

Three turnkey units have already been built at Chapel Court in Skibbereen, while the planning process for six more in Eyeries has commenced.

Furthermore, the Council has acquired seven houses in West Cork, and offers have been accepted on three more, and they will be used as social housing.

On a grander scale, Mr Manning, said there are two Public Private Partnership bundles, or PPPs as they are known, and they include 52 new houses for Clonakilty, and 50 for Skibbereen. The Part 8 planning process for this bundle has been completed and Mr Manning said construction is expected to start in September or October of this year and take 12 months to complete.

The Council has also provided capital assistance for nine houses for the elderly in Rosscarbery, and the Clúid development at the convent in Bantry was granted Part 8 planning approval in May.

In the West Cork Municipal District area, the Council has also leased 448 housing units for people on the local authority’s housing list.

Of the Council’s entire housing stock in West Cork – a figure that stands at 1,788 – only 30 are vacant, which represents 1.68% of the overall figure. These vacant houses are in the process of being repaired for re-use.

Mr Manning told the councillors that a condition survey of all local authority houses commenced in April 2019 and that it will take two to three years to complete.

He said the significance of the survey is that: ‘It will inform future planned maintenance programmes throughout Cork.’ Another way that the Council is seeking to accommodate people is under a buy and renew scheme and as of June 12th. Mr Manning said there was a total of 489 properties logged on www.vacanthomes.ie. The Council plans to follow this up and assess their suitability for social housing.

To date, 47 of these properties are in the process of being brought back into use by the owners and Cork County Council. The Council is also helping people to purchase their own properties. 

The director of housing confirmed that of the 65 home loan applications – which grants up to 90% of the market value of the property – the Council received in West Cork, 32 were approved so far this year. 

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