*Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien. Photograph: Tom Micks

DESPITE over fifty towns and villages in Clare being prohibited from the construction of housing developments due to inadequate wastewater infrastructure, the Minister for Housing insists the climate is improving for young people to build homes.

Confirmation was issued last week from Clare County Council that a €7.7m social housing development in Ennistymon for thirty houses had been paused. This setback is due to a wasterwater system currently at capacity in North Clare.

While it was the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage that first granted the Ennistymon development, it was also the same Department which forced it to stop given that it oversees Uisce Éireann.

Minister O’Brien said he has met with Uisce Éireann to avoid such scenarios as what happened in Ennistymon from occurring. “Ennistymon and the provision of wastewater treatment services is something that we are very focused on, we’re investing about €6bn a year, if you take Clare in particular we had two villages Broadford and Cooraclare that I met with both Timmy (Dooley), Cathal (Crowe) and colleagues a number of years ago and was able to approve separately to the Uisce Éireann capital programme to provide the infrastructure that is there, I engaged with Uisce Éireann in ensuring projects are brought forward that can allow us to provide developments like what you’ve mentioned in Ennistymon”.

Employment opportunities exist for young people living from Ennistymon, Lahinch, Kilfenora and Miltown Malbay but options to build and live locally in these areas don’t appear to be coming on the horizon in the next decade. This has heightened the worry that young people in these areas will continue to emigrate.

However Minister O’Brien felt the signs for first-time buyers were improving. “Nationwide we’ve more first-time buyers than we’ve ever had since 2006, it is still difficult for younger people and not so young people but it is improving, progress is there but not everybody is feeling it, if you look at the overall housing output last year over 33,000 new homes were delivered which is way above our target for two years in a row, we’re playing catch-up but we are seeing first-time buyers because of the schemes we’ve brought forward like the help to buy grant €33,000 of people’s own tax back in their pocket which the main opposition party would abolish, the first home scheme which is the shared equity scheme which on average is giving €77,000 in equity to people that applies to self-build homes as well.

“We’ve had applications here in Clare, another scheme that is working with 800 households applying and registering for it and another scheme that the main opposition party is abolishing, there is still challenges certainly and unquestionably but how we tackle that is increasing the supply and thankfully that trajectory in relation to supply since we’ve come into Government and I’ve been appointed Minister for Housing is increasing substantially, we’ve a good pipeline here for this year in Co Clare too and we intend to deliver on it and exceed our targets”.

Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) warned the Minister that in Ruan, Lahinch and Miltown Malbay upgrades are taking so long “which is causing investors to look elsewhere” when it comes to the provision of housing.

Uisce Éireann will receive a €6bn investment “which is the highest capital investment they’ve had,” the Minister responded. “The schemes are no longer through County Councils but Uisce Éireann which I think is the way forward”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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