Council to build almost 500 houses

Cavan County Council has pledged to provide 490 new houses over the next five years under the government’s ‘Housing for All’ plan.

The homes will be provided by the council in conjunction with approved housing bodies.

At present there are 522 people on the council’s housing waiting list, with a further 601 on the transfer list. The transfer list is comprised of people who wish to transfer to the Cavan County Council housing list. Between 2018 and 2021 the local authority provided 350 houses “across all forms of provision”. In the same period, they purchased 116 houses.

The council says it intends to increase the supply of local authority housing by doubling the output of built houses over the next five years compared with the last five. The commitment was outlined to members at the September plenary meeting of the authority last Monday afternoon.

The morning of the meeting Director of Services (Housing), Eoin Doyle, attended a briefing on the ‘Housing For All’ plan in Dublin. Unveiled by Minister Darragh O’Brien last week, the plan aims to build 310,000 new homes across the country and “end homelessness by 2030”.

It’s a multi-annual, multi-billion euro programme aimed at improving Ireland’s housing system and deliver more homes for people with different housing needs: “It’s a massive plan, there is an awful lot of detail,” Mr Doyle told elected members, saying he would focus on issues in the plan that members have previously raised.

Mr Doyle told members the government’s overall objective is that every citizen in the State should have access to good quality homes. Among the objectives are the ability of people to purchase or rent at an affordable price and to build to a high standard and in the right place. The plan estimates that Ireland will need an average of 33,000 new homes to be provided each year from 2021 to 2030.

The director outlined the four pillars to achieving housing for all. They are: Supporting home ownership and increasing affordability; eradicating homelessness, increasing social housing delivery and supporting social inclusion; increasing new housing supply; and addressing vacancy and efficient use of existing stock.

One of the main areas to be addressed was in construction: “The emphasis is on building, not buying or leasing going forward,” he told. Cavan has to provide 490 houses over the next five years with limited house purchasing options.

‘Tax’ on vacant land

To stimulate this the local authority will “tax aggressively” vacant land, while “Land Value Sharing” will see the State benefit from the increase in land price as a result of rezoning.

“We are approved this year to buy 10 houses, two years ago we were approved for 45, that [reduction] is going to continue. We will be buying less and less houses, there will be less turn keys,” Mr Doyle said. “The emphasis will be on direct build through a combination of ‘infill’ type developments and some of our own larger schemes.”

This is exemplified in the “Town Centre First” aspect of the plan. Local authorities will be given strong support for compulsory purchase orders of derelicts sites to make them available for urban development. The plan acknowledges the difficulty presented by skills shortages in the construction sector and the increase in building costs and its impact on affordability.

Mr Doyle, said: “In 2020, Cavan County Council supported 280 families with accommodation. With 362 new-build housing units at various stages of the construction process and 90 vacant homes set to be returned to the housing stock this year, many more families and individuals will have access to a home they can call their own in the coming months and years.”