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Fears expressed over €7m council housing scheme

CLARE County Council are set to spend more than €7 million (before VAT) on building affordable housing in Cluain Airne and, despite the ongoing correction in the property market, they expect the scheme to sell out.
At this week’s meeting of Shannon Town Council, Councillor Cathy McCafferty put forward a motion asking for the unit cost of an affordable home at the site.
In response, town manager Bernadette Kinsella said, “The contract construction prices is €7,005,236.59, exclusive of VAT, for the total scheme of 60 houses. This figure will be adjusted to reflect the type of house and to include consultants’ fees, legal fees and any other associated costs to arrive at a final unit cost.”
She said that 135 applicants have sought affordable housing in the scheme. “Having regard to the existing database and current enquiries, it is expected that the number of qualifying applicants will exceed the number of units available.”
Councillor McCafferty said that there is already “an abundance of affordability on the market in Shannon” with two-bedroom properties going for around €85,000 and three or four-bedroom properties for in the region of €130,000.  “Those prices are still negotiable,” she added.
Given that there are 300,000 properties left idle in the State, she questioned the rationale of building on a green area beside an existing housing estate.
“The people in Cluain Airne and Tradaree are worried about the consequences of building affordable housing when there is so little demand,” Councillor McCafferty claimed.
She questioned if the houses could end up as social housing or be used to house people from the Limerick City Regeneration areas.
Councillor Tony McMahon said that at the current time, with prices having fallen, it makes sense for the council to buy houses and make them available to people.
Mayor of Clare Tony Mulcahy said he believed there would be enough interest in the houses in Cluain Airne and that there was no danger of the houses being used for purposes other than affordable housing. “They will not be for rent subsidy, they are not council housing, they will not be for the regeneration scheme, we have to be very clear about this.” He said that people are still having severe problems getting mortgages from banks. “As a bank manager said to me in this town, the door is open for business if you’re coming in, but don’t try to take anything out’.”
According to councillor Mary Brennan, people shouldn’t be able to abuse the principles of the affordable housing scheme by selling off houses they already have and then buying a new home under its terms.
“The council have taken on people who have sold houses and it’s a total gain for them. I have a difficulty with people getting houses who have sold private houses,.” she said.
Summing up, Ms Kinsella said that in her short tenure in Shannon she had become aware of a variety of views on the affordable housing development. “Since I came to Shannon, it’s been clear to me that there is support for the scheme and there are people with grave concerns.”
She said that it was still too early to know what the final unit cost will be, and that the assessment of applications will take place once this has been arrived at.

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