Offaly County Council failed to build a single social house in first six months of 2018

Justin Kelly

Reporter:

Justin Kelly

Email:

news@offalyexpress.ie

Offaly County Council failed to build a single social house in first six months of 2018

Offaly County Council failed to build a single social house in first six months of 2018

Offaly County Council failed to deliver a single 'new build' social house in the first six months of 2018, new figures have revealed. 

According to the latest Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report for Q2, Offaly County Council relied upon direct Local Authority and Approved Housing Body acquisitions to meet two-thirds of its social housing delivery targets.

Offaly's social housing target for this year is 307 but up to June, they had delivered just 202 of those, none of which were direct council builds.

The figures show that no Local Authority (LA) or Approved Housing Body (AHB) houses were completed in the county, 36 were delivered through LA and AHB acquisitions, seven were leased, while zero came through the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

159 of the 202 social housing solutions delivered by Offaly County Council so in the first six months of 2018 came through HAP contracts. Those on HAP schemes are entitled to remain on the social housing list. 

Launching the report, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said: "The pace of delivery on the build side will have to pick up considerably in the second half of the year."

"29 out of 31 authorities saw completions in the first half of the year with many more projects progressing through the pipeline."

The issue of housing was raised at the most recent meeting of Offaly County Council where councillors railed against the slow rate of direct builds.

The meeting was informed that 15 families are living in emergency accommodation in the county, while a further 20 single people are also in temporary emergency accommodation. 

Councillors were told that almost 1,500 people are eligible for social housing with 675 of those currently on the social housing list, and 805 currently on the HAP scheme.

The housing section said that their target handed down by government is to provide 468 social housing units between 2017 and 2021. 

It was revealed that just 86 of those are projected to be direct builds, with over 100 expected to come from council acquisitions. Leasing, voids and refurbishment projects were also included in a figure of 522 Offaly County Council expects to provide by 2021. 

In the short-term, the meeting heard that the housing department expects a number of direct builds to be completed before the end of 2019.

Construction is due to commence on four units through housing agency Mid Offaly Housing in Mount Bolus, while work on 26 units at Killane Drive in Edenderry through Tuath and six at Scurragh with Cluid in Birr are set to begin before the end of the year.

Close to 100 others are at various stages of approval and progress.

Responding to the figures, particularly those outlining the number of families in emergency accommodation, Cllr Declan Harvey described it as "a terrible crisis."

He went on to say, "Emergency accommodation is not suitable for small kids - some of it is actually inhumane."

Cllr Peter Ormond added, "We have to get into the real world and increase supply somehow, and the Department needs to move things along faster."

The Fianna Fail member went on to call for more incentives for private sector building projects to add to the affordable and social housing stock. 

Cllr John Leahy spoke on the issues and questioned the rhetoric of Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy who seemed to apply blame to councils in relation to action on housing. 

"If all county councils were working as efficiently as the housing section of Offaly County Council, there would be no need for such rhetoric out there."

Cllr Leahy also went on to express concern over a number of people on HAP schemes who are in unsuitable or unsatisfactory accommodation but who may be locked into contracts.

Having heard that the social houses commencing this year may not be delivered until late 2019 or early 2020, a number of councillors questioned the effectiveness of housing agencies in the building of social housing units. 

Cllr Declan Harvey asked, "Why can't the council build houses directly like we used to? We always had a good record of delivering for people."

"Cllr John Carroll described the providers as "quango agencies" and wondered why the system was ever moved away from direct council building. 

While saying "this housing crisis needs to be addressed seriously," Cllr Carroll eluded to "too many schemes" who "take too long" to get houses from start to finish through all the stages required. 

He also criticised the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans established in February of this year to help those who have been denied a mortgage through traditional lenders. The meeting heard that 39 applications for the loan had been received by Offaly County Council but just six loans to the value of €716,000 had been approved as of September 1.

Cllr Carroll criticised the level of deposit still required for the scheme, saying the main thing barring people from purchasing their own home is the process of renting as prices rise while also saving a 10% deposit. 

"You give it with one hand and take it away with the other, " Cllr Carroll said of the scheme. 

Cathaoirleach Danny Owens concluded the lengthy discussion by agreeing with the view expressed about housing agencies and the protracted process of housing delivery they incur. He said he had expressed disagreement with such agencies "for a long time."