OVER €4.6 million has been spent on the affordable housing development adjacent to Cluain Airne, this week’s meeting of Shannon Town Council heard, while frustration about the developer going out of business was expressed.
Work at the site has been stalled since Easter, while it is estimated around three weeks more work is required to complete the development.
Councillor Cathy McCafferty put forward a motion seeking details of spending on the development. In a written reply from town manager Bernadette Kinsella she stated total spending to date was €4,602,417.56, while a site subsidy of €653,982 and a grant for the six step down units of €752,952 had been received by the county council.
The independent councillor also questioned the pricing of the houses asking whether it is fair, reasonable and accurate to describe the units for sale at Glaise na Rinne as affordable homes.
In her written reply, Ms Kinsella stated, “The houses are currently being marketed by Mr Liam Browne, Paddy Browne and Co Real Estate Alliance, who was selected through a competitive tendering process. The market value of the 14 three-bed houses is estimated at €147,500 and a 15.25% discount is being applied, which gives an affordable price of €125,000. The estimated market value of the two four-bed houses is €159,000 and are being offered for sale at a discount of 15%, with an affordable price of €135,000. To date, six completed applications have been received and are being processed.”
Speaking about the appointment of a receiver to Atlantic Developments, she said it was “extremely disappointing”. However, she said because the works have gone so far, “it will take a short time to carry them out once a completion contractor is on site”.
She said the council has already received six completed applications and that this number is expected to double quite soon.
Councillor McCafferty said affordable houses were to be for people who were priced out of the market. “According to the website affordablehome.ie, which is no longer online, ‘an affordable home is for people who cannot afford to buy on the open market and is provided at a discount to the market price’. In fact the website stated ‘what makes these properties affordable is that they are all available at prices much lower than the market value’. If we accept this definition, as I think we must, then it is misleading, in my view to describe a house at Glaise na Rinne on sale for €125,000 as an ‘affordable home’.
“At present, you can buy a two-bedroom house in Cronan Grove for €50,000 and a three bedroom house in Finian Park for €89,000. Less than 100 yards away from Glaise na Rinne, you can buy a three-bedroom house in Cluain Airne for €91,750. They are all available right now and on the open market. At a time when there is very significant demand for houses in Shannon, I am deeply concerned at the misrepresentation of these houses as being somehow ‘affordable’.”
She urged anyone thinking of buying to be cautious. “Given the asking price of these homes and the fact that they will remain subject to a significant clawback for the next 20 years, I would advise ‘buyer beware’.
Councillor Gerry Flynn put forward a motion that the council request the Minister for the Environment to allow Clare County Council to remove the Part 8 planning permission from the area and return it to open space.
He described the project as “a disaster from the word go to the current day” while he said at the outset some felt it was “total folly”.
He said he had sought an enquiry before but had been unsuccessful and that perhaps a request for one should now be made to the minister. “Maybe it’s the minister we should ask now to do an enquiry because there are more questions than answers.”
Councillor Sean McLoughlin said the houses do seem a bit expensive while Councillor Tony McMahon said that the prices “do seem a bit prohibitive”. He agreed that returning the rest of the site to open space would be desirable.
Ms Kinsella said there was no provision in legislation to remove the Part 8 permission and that the prices for the units had been set by property experts.
However, Councillor McCafferty said the prices she quoted had also come from experts, while Councillor McLoughlin said a second opinion would be welcome, given that people had come to him to say they were priced too high.
Councillor Mary Brennan agreed the mortgage required for one of the houses would be quite expensive but she said that the lower prices quoted by Councillor McCafferty might be due to the need for significant upgrading work.
Independent Patricia McCarthy said the price comparisons made by Councillor McCafferty were “not comparing like with like”. She said the houses in Cluain Airne are brand new, with a higher standard of finish. She also said they have solar panels, which will result in future savings. However, Councillor McCafferty continued to insist the prices sought are too high.
Summing up, Councillor Flynn said when affordable housing was being scrapped in the rest of the country “we in Clare went full steam ahead and see what happened”.
He said that questions had been posed about Atlantic Developments but councillors had been given assurances, which ultimately proved incorrect. He also expressed concern about the effect on subcontractors. “It’s mainly sub-contractors that will be left bankrupt and unable to feed their children or pay their mortgages, if they have them.”
He said warnings had been given from the very start that the scheme wasn’t viable.