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Need to purchase properties stressed for Council to meet housing targets

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Concern has been expressed that Clare County Council will come up short of meeting their Rebuilding Ireland housing targets for 2019 if it is prohibited from purchasing additional housing units.

As per Rebuilding Ireland, the local authority is expected to build 100 houses, acquire 31 and lease 80. Through the Housing Assist Payment (HAP) 250 is the aim while under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) it is 14 which leaves the overall target of 450 houses.

An expression of interest competition is due to be drafted by the housing capital delivery team in Clare this week “in order to meet the ambitious built target” administrative officer Mairead Corbett revealed at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Social Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC).The competition is to be “focused on securing developments in Ennis to address the lack of housing lands and to meeting the greatest area of housing need, the county town”. Corbett stated, “We hope to come in line with our targets”.

Chair of the SPC, Cllr Gerry Flynn was not as optimistic. He was concerned of the impact a directive for the Council not to purchase any more houses would have and wanted a request to be issued to the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy “to allow purchase of houses”. “We are going to fall a little bit short of that target. There is a housing crisis out there,” the Independent councillor said.

“We’re still at the stage where we can acquire property cheaper than it is to build it. We should be making a case to continue with acquisitions,” Fianna Fáil’s Tom McNamara observed. The Kilmaley councillor revealed that “more and more people” were approaching him as they feared they were in danger of becoming homeless, “The fact we can’t purchase houses means we can’t help them., it is very unfair to see people forced into a homeless situation”.

Corbett clarified that of the current targets for acquiring, 22 are carried over from 2018. “We’ve sent a letter to Minister asking for an increase to 65”.

Trade Union representative Thomas Guilfoyle queried how many Council houses would be built during the year. In response, Director of Service Anne Haugh outlined, “The target is 100 build, that can be delivered by Council or Approved Housing Bodies (AHB). A number of AHB developments are in progress, together they will have to combine to reach 100. If you’re returning a house that has not been in use for quite a while it qualifies as a build. There certainly is value in the market to be obtained in Clare, it is a little bit early to say but while there is value in the market we would like to be able to continue purchasing properties”.

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