*Photograph: Taka Aylelower
Proposed social housing in Tulla needs to contain “a mix of people” so that it individuals struggling to get a mortgage have an opportunity to purchase a house there, East Clare councillors have stressed.
In February, Clare County Council confirmed it had purchased a 1.83 hectare site which would delivery 22 social housing units in Tulla. The plot of land is located 300m from St Mochulla’s National School and 170m north west of Tulla’s main street. The development must first meet requirements from the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government for Part 8 Planning and get the approval of Irish Water regarding provision of certain services. Currently, it has been submitted to the Department for stage one approval.
At the March meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Pat Hayes proposed “that affordable housing scheme be included” in the proposal for the 22 social housing units. “It is important that this section of people in the middle who are not entitled to social housing and that are finding it difficult to get a mortgage be given an opportunity to find a home”.
Senior executive officer with the Council’s housing department, Siobhan McNulty in a written response detailed, “At the time of this reply there is no affordable housing scheme under which this proposal could be considered although we are informed that such an announcement is imminent. From the limited information which is available at present it would appear that for a development to qualify as affordable there must be negligible land costs and this is not the case on this site”.
McNulty affirmed councillors, “We will continue to work with the Tulla community to advise on and consult with them in relation to the proposed development”.
“One of the important things for all social housing is to get a mix of people and have affordable housing. Whether it’s in Tulla or Scariff it should be a mix,” Cllr Hayes told the meeting. The Fianna Fáil councillor maintained that adhering to such a criteria should be followed “going forward for every town and village”.
In seconding the motion, Cllr Joe Cooney noted the development “is at an early stage”. “We would all love for it to be affordable and a mix of social housing but it is probably too late,” he added. Cooney requested a public consultation with the people of Tulla, to which Director of Service Anne Haugh pointed out a meeting had already occurred and Cllr Cooney then stated it was attended by “three people”.
Responding to a claim from Cllr Hayes that a promise was already made to hold a public meeting prior to the part 8 process, Anne Haugh assured elected representatives the consultation “would have been happening”. “Consultation has happened way before part 1 was approved, the proposal for 22 houses is sufficient for Tulla, the next stage will involve consultation for planning. If there is a need for a meeting we will accommodate it,” she said.
Anne who has responsibility for housing under her role as Director of Social Development with the Council reiterated McNulty’s comment that “the land costs have to be negligible”.
Hayes requested a letter be sent to the Department asking for a mix of affordable and social housing. “To deliver the scheme on target we need to have it with the Department,” Haugh said warning that Hayes’ plea would delay the project. “The need for social housing is there. We don’t go out willy nilly and do schemes, there is a need there for the scheme we have planned. I’m perfectly open to an affordable scheme in Tulla or wherever but it would complicate the process,” she highlighted.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe MD, Pat Burke admitted he “would dispute the need for 22 social housing units”. “The feel of all the community would be a mix of affordable and social housing,” Cllr Hayes repeated. “The design isn’t a final design and I can’t see anything wrong with writing to the Department,” the Chair of the Rural Development SPC said. Cllr Joe Cooney reminded Hayes that stage 1 was already with the Department and queried if a consultation could be held.
Anne Haugh informed the councillors stage 1 was the first in a four part process, “the whole process takes 59 weeks”. As the submission is currently with the Department, she expected they would have a response in four to eight weeks. “Stage 2 is the planning stage and that involves consultation”. Based on this information Cllr Cooney calculated that the public consultation would occur in 8 to 12 weeks.
“Have I the support of councillors,” Cllr Hayes asked and his Fianna Fáil colleague Tony O’Brien worried “it could delay the project”, “By how much I’m not sure” Ms Haugh interjected. “It is better to try get it right, I’m not asking to pull the part 1 stage”, Hayes explained. “We already seconded that,” Cooney said in answer to Cllr Hayes’ question. Ms Haugh confirmed she would convey the views expressed by councillors to the Department.