WHILE Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien came to Clare on Monday for the launch of four new social schemes, there are still plenty of housing challenges in the county.
The new developments were launched in Ennis, Miltown Malbay and Tulla with a total of 153 homes being delivered from a total budget of over €40 million.
The Cluain Gréine development in Lifford, Ennis, is the largest of the four new developments, with an approved budget of €18,923,877.
This development provides 61 social housing units through the turnkey delivery stream. It was constructed by Manozo Ltd for Focus Capital.
Also in Ennis, the Cnoc na Scoile development at Ashline on the Kilrush Road, provides 40 social housing units through a direct build scheme by Clare County Council.
This development had an approved budget of €10,534,481. The project was completed in June and the appointed contractor on the project was M. Fitzgibbon Contractors Ltd.
The Baile na mBan development on Ballard Road, Miltown Malbay, consists of 27 social housing units provided through a direct build scheme by Clare County Council.
Finally the Cúinne an Bhroic development at Doonaun, Tulla, provides 25 social housing units, also through a direct build scheme by the Council. This development had an approved budget of €5,152,736 and was completed in June.
Earlier this month Clare County Council officials said that the level of demand for homelessness services here has never been greater.
While acknowledging the situation in the county, Minister O’Brien said he was confident things will improve, because more housing will be made available.
“Today’s a really significant day for Clare, between the four schemes there’s 153 new homes and that is an incredible achievement by Clare County Council supported by us as Government and me as Minister to make sure that we have more funding in place to deliver more social homes than we have ever done before.
“We have a really good pipeline into next year, we’re seeing a reduction in Clare above the national average in the social housing waiting list, that reduction will continue.
“In relation to homeless services, that’s our number one priority, that those who are at sharpest end of the housing crisis, those who are homeless, get a home.
“That’s why in the budget that the Government have passed we will have unprecedented levels of funding going into homeless services next year.
“Fundamentally what we need to do is deliver more supply. More social homes, I want to see affordable homes here in Clare as well, and yes, more private homes too.”
He said the current housing strategy is unique in its ambition.
“This Government’s Housing For All Plan is incomparable. There’s no other plan like it, no funding equivalent to what we’re doing.
“Thankfully momentum is building, the plan is taking hold. This year will be a good year for delivery, even with all the difficulties we had earlier in the year with supply chain and inflation, we’ve managed our way through that.
“As you would have heard from Ann Haugh (Council Director of Service) and Pat (Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council), the pipeline for next year is very good. There are reasons to be very optimistic about the situation here in Clare going forward.”
Introducing a levy on concrete products has been roundly criticised at a time when housing is scarce and often unaffordable, but he defended the move.
“Changes have been made (to the original proposals) and agreed by Government. Fundamentally this Government wants to deliver 300,000 new homes between now and 2030.
“We need to increase the level of building and supply across private and public, and we’re doing that. We need to build capacity in the sector and we have 20,000 more people now working in construction than we had pre-pandemic.
“What Housing For All does is give certainty to the sector on capital funding, which is agreed on a multi annual basis of about €4.5 billion a year. That gives the confidence to the sector to deliver schemes like this.
“I visited, with Cathal (Crowe), Joe (Carey) and Timmy (Dooley) last year, people here in Clare who have issues with defective blocks.
“We were good to our word, we delivered the legislation, we’re delivering the scheme and the State will be the biggest contributor to that scheme, probably €2.7 to €3 billion.
“What we have agreed is that there be a contribution towards that, that’s what the concrete levy is, a small contribution but a contribution nonetheless.
“Really our focus is on getting moving on that scheme, getting people’s homes and lives back together, while we are delivering more homes for our people as we have here in Ennis and in Miltown Malbay and in Tulla.”
The county hasn’t seen any affordable housing schemes for years, but he said progress is being made towards possibly delivering two new ones.
“I’ve approved about 30 affordable purchase schemes right across the country, this is Council led affordable schemes, we’ve seen the first ones in Limerick and Westmeath and I expect Clare shortly.
“A submission is being worked through, it’s with the local authority right now, they’re doing a lot of good work on that.
“As I said today, I want to see those applications in as soon as possible. If we can get them in before Christmas, and the math stacks up, and I expect it to do so; this Government will support the delivery of those affordable housing schemes here in Clare. And they would be significant, both of these schemes. We’re working together, we work really well with Clare County
Council I have to say.”
More than 50 towns and villages around the county don’t have the wastewater treatment services that would allow further development to take place, and he was asked if there is a padlock on rural Clare.
“We’ve provided Irish Water with the largest capital budget they’ve ever had to deliver schemes and they’re making progress.
“In relation to the unserved villages scheme, that’s a scheme that I brought forward. We’ve put it out there, we’ve received applications from Clare that are being assessed,” he said.
Minister O’Brien also said there has been significant interest in accessing new grants to fix up derelict properties, while the Council are also making progress.
“Speaking to the housing team in Clare this morning, they’ve been doing pretty well on the buy and renew piece and taking other derelict properties and getting them back into use for social housing.
“Things are moving here in Clare, it’s not fixed, it doesn’t get fixed overnight. In relation to villages and settlement that don’t have wastewater treatment we needed to grasp the nettle and we’ve done that.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.