*The Francis St site will become the county’s first affordable housing scheme. Photograph: John Mangan

AFFORDABLE housing schemes will be approved for Clare if further applications are submitted by the County Council according to the Minister for Housing.

Ennis will be the location of the county’s first affordable housing scheme. The Francis St block of six cottages which were acquired by Clare County Council in October 2022. 39 apartments will be constructed as part of the Francis St project.

Last May, the local authority was granted approval in principle for affordable housing schemes in Ennis and Shannon by the Department of Housing. In March 2023, the Council made a submission to the Department seeking the inclusion of both towns. Data included in the submission was sourced from an expression of interest survey ran by the Council which had over 500 submissions.

In January, the Department also green lit the approval of ten affordable homes in a Shannon project.

However speaking in Ennis last Friday, the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF) claimed, “on affordable housing, I’ve yet to receive an application from Clare County Council in relation to it, I can only assess the applications as they come in”.

On the squeezed middle who earn too much to qualify for social housing and an insufficient amount for an affordable housing scheme, he said, “I increased the social housing income limits in Clare for the first time in eleven years to make sure more people could access social housing”.

He continued, “We’re providing up to €100,000 of State support to the local authority so we can be selling homes and we are across the country in the range from €166,000 up, I’ve approved over 4,500 homes so far, what I would encourage our local authority and our councillors to ensure that those affordable applications come up to me and I won’t be found wanting for support. In relation to income brackets, we’ve set no lower threshold at a national level, Clare have passed their scheme of priorities which the councillors pass and they have done so here in Clare but there’s no minimum income floor on that, I’ll have to wait scheme is coming forward, I’m aware that there are two in particular that have been worked on by the local authority and I really want to receive them because I want to make sure that the young people have an opportunity to buy a home here in Clare, many are accessing the vacancy grant we’ve seen nearly 300 applications”.

Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien speaks t the local media in Clare. Photograph: Tom Micks

Shannon initially did not qualify for the affordable housing scheme but efforts by Council officials in pushing for its inclusion were a success. It means that only two areas in the entire county are eligible with 51 towns and villages hindered from development due to inadequate wastewater treatment plants.

Such a scenario has been slammed by councillors in Clare who feel there was “outside interference” from the Office of the Planning Regulator and officials in O’Brien’s Department to their County Development Plan. Minister O’Brien said, Whilst there are challenges, it has to be recognised where the progress is too, my and the Government’s commitment to Clare is absolute, the Development Plan is a reserved function of the councillors and the local authority. I was a councillor myself, the law is that the development plans are a reserved function of the local authorities, they are guided by the National Planning Framework, when we talk about affordable housing I will be very supportive of an application that I receive from Clare for affordable housing”.

When asked if he’d commit to allowing affordable schemes in parts of Clare that don’t meet the criteria of having a population of 10,000 plus, the Minister said, “Once an application comes in I’d be very positive to it, I want affordable housing schemes that we’re funding to get underway here in Clare, I can’t approve a scheme unless I get an application”.

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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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