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*The construction of social housing in Newmarket-on-Fergus has been paused. 

A total of 94 social housing units planned for delivery by the end of 2021 will now fall over into 2022 as a result of Level 5 restrictions.

Essential designation has been confirmed on two sites, Doonbeg and the Shannon PPP project. 276 units are currently in train at various stages under the Council’s Social Housing Investment programme, as well as 30 further units in collaboration with the associated housing bodies.

New capital targets on housing delivery will follow the five year multi-annual programme for housing delivery called Housing for All which replaces Rebuilding Ireland.

Director of Service with Clare County Council, Anne Haugh explained, “It will require nationally an additional delivery of 10,000 units per year for the programme. That is separate to leasing targets and affordable housing targets. It’s quite an ambitious and onerous programme by design.”

COVID-19 was flagged as having implications on the delivery of social housing units for 2021. Clare County Council are currently awaiting confirmation from the Department on whether the Acquisitions Programme will be opening up, in order to make up the deficit. “Local Authorities want to be able to meet their build targets,” she told a meeting of the Social Development SPC.

An Affordable Housing Bill comprised of three elements is currently under being discussed at Government level. This includes direct build on state lands of affordable houses, eligibility for these units will be predominantly restricted to first time buyers. An expansion of the Service Sites Fund is also being looked at, this will provide a maximum of €50,000 as a subsidy per unit in order to make it affordable. Cost rental housing is also being considered, the focus being on rents charged based on the cost of maintaining units.

The third element to the Bill, is the provision of a shared equity scheme. Here the State would be providing equity support for purchases on the private market for those unable to avail of a standard mortgage. The State would have an equity stake in the property.

Strong sentiments against shared equity were provided by Trade Unions Representative Tommy Guilfoyle. “The Shared Equity Scheme puts 33 per cent more into the developer’s pockets. It’s just another means of funnelling public funds into the private sector. We need to give back the money to Local Authorities to build the houses.”

Development and Construction Representative Larry Brennan, in response, argued that developers are providing affordable housing locally, costing less than what local authorities are charging for the building of new units.

“All developers in Ennis are all trying to hold affordability. We are building in villages and towns in Clare. The biggest hoarder of land is Clare County Council, particularly in Shannon. We are prepared to talk as an industry. The new rentals are gone through the roof in Co Clare. What was €700-€800 for a three-bedroom house in Co Clare, has now gone to €1,400. There is no housing there. You can’t blame the developers for that. Volume is the problem. There isn’t the amount of building that should be going on,” Brennan commented.

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