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29 Sept 2022

Plan for new houses in Offaly town hit by rising costs

Offaly houses

New local authority houses planned in Offaly

Offaly County Council plans to build nine housing units in Daingean were hit this year by price rises.

Last week's meeting of the Edenderry Municipal District was told that the project had to be re-tendered because of what housing official John Cunningham said were “inflationary issues”.

The final stage in departmental approval for the project had been received in March and work was due to begin on the site at Circular Road in May this year but new tenders had to be sought and they are now due back.

Councillors previously heard that following the issue of a letter of intent the preferred contractor pulled out stating hyperinflation as the reason.

Meanwhile, a ten-unit development on Circular Road at a site adjoining the delayed scheme is also progressing through its approval stages.

A report presented by Offaly County Council this week indicated that surveys had been procured for the project.

There was better news in Edenderry where a contract has been awarded for the building of four older person dwelling at Sr Senan in the town.

In Portarlington 28 housing units are under construction at Bog Road and Mr Cunningham said they will be completed in 2023, “hopefully spring”.

Also in Portarlington's Bog Road, five units will be provided to the council under the Part V scheme (whereby up to 20% of a private housing development can be acquired by a local authority).

The same scheme will deliver two houses at Ard na Carraige, Edenderry and those are “almost complete”.

Four housing units are being built in Walsh Island and are expected to be finished this year.

The largest single residential scheme currently in the pipeline in the Edenderry Municipal District is at the former Presentation lands in Portarlington where an approved housing body, Sophia Housing, intends to provide 39 units.

A planning application was lodged in May last year but was withdrawn in May 2022. Further information had been requested from Sophia in July 2021 and was received by the council in April this year.

The project is located in the grounds of the former Presentation convent, school and chapel.

The original application sought consent for 28 new two and three-storey houses (six suitable for up to six people and 22 suitable for four people), demolition of “recent modern additions” and change of use of the former old school building to the north of the former convent to two two-bed two-storey houses and the demolition of recent modern additions and change of use of a 618 sq m part of the former presentation convent/school to nine apartments.

The plan envisaged a larger building, 880 sq m over two floors, being used for parish and community purposes with a reception, coffee area, a general purpose hall, committee rooms, an exhibition space and administration offices.

Part of the Presentation building is a protected structure.

In all of Offaly there were 532 applicants on the social housing waiting list at the end of August.

There were a further 690 active tenancies being supported under the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) scheme.

Sixteen left HAP during July and August but another 16 households joined the scheme.

Reacting to the housing report, Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick said the big issue for “working couples” was the eligibility rule for HAP which could mean that “if they're over the limit by 5 or 10 euros they're eliminated completely from that application and that in turn doesn't give them any access to a HAP payment to support their income.”

The Fianna Fail councillor added: “I can see we're going to have a greater housing crisis if something doesn't happen in the near future in relation to this.”

Cllr Fitzpatrick said many people were “really struggling”. “I met a lady yesterday, her housing application, because she was over the income limit, that she was trying to survive. She's talking about maybe about having to sell her car now. She can't afford to run the car because she can't afford the rent.”

Cllr Liam Quinn, Fine Gael, said the increasing role of Part V in providing houses was interesting and he asked if more could be done to help small and medium size developers and builders who wish to provide eight to 10 houses in a village.

“I'd much prefer to see small-scale housing developments,” added Cllr Quinn, saying smaller builders needed their costs reduced because it was difficult for them to make money.

Cllr Mark Hackett, Green Party, asked if a greater number of one-bed units for single people and older persons needed to be built.

Mr Cunningham told the councillors that the Government's Housing for All plan runs until 2026 and he believed Offaly is “on track” to reach its target of providing 463 housing units.

Sharon Kennedy, director of service, also told the meeting: “Our intent is actually to surpass the target. We are seeing it as a target and not a limit.”

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