500 new council houses for Cavan
TARGETS Local authority partners with housing bodies on delivery
Drumalee Manor in Cavan Town was once lamented as one of more than 80 unfinished estates that littered the county. Construction came to a shuddering halt after the recession hit and, only in recent years, has building activity returned.
Last Friday, as part of a phased development carried out by Tuath Housing Association, in partnership with Cavan County Council, 12 names were taken off the social housing list and each family given keys to new homes in the community.
The initial dozen properties represent phase one of an overall 25-home development, delivered through the Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) Scheme with an investment of €4.6 million.
As part of a tour of the county last Friday, May 20, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, oversaw the handing over of keys to new tenants, and took the opportunity to inspect progress on several other social housing projects underway.
There are just over 1,000 names on the social housing list in Cavan at present. More than half make up transfers and tenants currently in receipt of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) or Rent Assistance Scheme (RAS). With those removed, the total core need figures at a little under 500.
The council and partner approved housing bodies are currently overseeing the construction or renovation of more than 200 housing units, with an investment of almost €25 million.
They include the construction of six new social houses by local contractor Crosserlough Construction in Butlersbridge, 15 new homes in Ballinagh by Cavan contractor Sandar Construction, and the restoration and deep energy retrofit of vacant units at John Paul Avenue, Cavan Town, by local contractor Hyland Construction.
The minister’s portfolio is as vast as it is varied. The sea on which he sails covers not just the headline responsibility of housing, but everything from waterways and marinas to fire stations and county councils, as well as those sections the Department of the Environment managed to jettison in recent years, such as responsibility for turf-cutting.
Minister O’Brien viewed his trip to Cavan as a positive one, a chance to see so many projects rubber-stamped by his office now reaching fruition.
With regard to housing specifically, he concedes there is a need to do “more”.
“Thankfully the pipeline is good, it’s very good here in Cavan in relation to this year and the next, and indeed the year after.”
He added that it was also “good” to meet people who have been assigned houses. “That’s what it’s about, actually providing homes to people.”
Work to deliver housing via partnerships between local authorities and approved housing bodies is happening “on a scale never before done before. Cavan, if I look at between now and the next few years, will deliver around 500 new build social homes. We’re providing the funding for that. We’ve a really good team here to do that. Also, looking at the delivery of affordable homes and that’s important too.”
The minister was handed a copy of last week’s Celt from May 19, the front page of which features a single mum Agnieszka Wojtowicz who, with her two daughters, face the prospect of homelessness after being told their rented home is being put up for sale. So difficult has it been for them to find alternative accommodation locally that the Agnes is even weighing up the prospect of moving back to Poland.
Her story is similar to two other families featured in this week’s edition of the newspaper, the minister was told.
“It’s a big problem,” Minister O’Brien accepts. “Firstly what we need to do to resolve the housing crisis is a supply led approach, and supply is increasing. For [Agnes] who has an issue right now, we have a fact where private landlords are leaving the market for the last number of years at an accelerated pace. That’s why we need to be able to provide supply there so people have choice. Post Covid, of two years of under-supply, we only built 20,000 homes in 2020-21 when we needed about 33,000, so we’re catching up in that space.”
Acting Chief Executive of Cavan County Council, and director of Housing, Eoin Doyle, acknowledged there are challenges faced in meeting the “ambitious” targets set out by the Department under its much-vaunted ‘Housing for All’ programme.
But for the likes of Drumalee Manor he says: “It’s breeding new life into this estate, bringing completion to the estate so that it is no longer an unfinished estate. It’s also a development central to the town, very much consistent to the department’s own goals on social sustainability.”
He adds: “All people accommodated here come from the council’s social housing list, and Tuath access the money through the council from the Department for Housing. The minister has set a very ambitious set of targets for the country, and in the region of 40 per cent of that to be delivered by approved housing bodies such as Tuath. There are several other good examples of housing delivery around the county, approved housing bodies working in partnership’ with the local authority, and it’s the type of partnership the minister wants to see local government to foster more of in years to come.”