Friday 2 December 2016

State to pledge €200m for vital road and bridge projects

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

The Local Infrastructure Housing Fund will be used to deliver bridges, roads and other projects needed to allow work begin on thousands of units across the country. Stock Image
The Local Infrastructure Housing Fund will be used to deliver bridges, roads and other projects needed to allow work begin on thousands of units across the country. Stock Image

A €200m fund to deliver key pieces of infrastructure needed to boost housing supply will be announced today.

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As many as 49,000 homes planned for Dublin alone cannot go ahead due to "infrastructure deficits" which will cost €165m to deliver.

Some €63m is needed in the short-term which would allow work to begin on 12,500 houses and apartments which would deliver around 18 months' supply for the capital.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Housing Minister Simon Coveney will set out details of the Local Infrastructure Housing Fund.

It will be used to deliver bridges, roads and other projects needed to allow work begin on thousands of units across the country.

The Irish Independent has learned that €150m will be provided by the exchequer to fund the necessary work, with another €50m in low-cost financing to be made available to local authorities through the Housing Finance Agency.

All projects will be funded on a 75/25 basis, with councils providing a quarter of building costs through borrowings or their own resources.

Funding will be allocated to city and county councils following a competitive bid process, where the local authority must prove it can quickly deliver housing development at scale.

In Dublin, a threshold of 500 or more units may be used, falling to 200 or more in Cork. It is likely to be based on the number of units with planning permission, but which cannot go ahead at present.

The infrastructure will be provided on publicly owned land, but will allow work to begin on privately owned sites. At least 10pc of homes in a private development must be set aside for social housing, and councils will also have to prove a "high level of affordability" for buyers.

In addition, the local authority will also be required to reach agreement with the developer that construction will follow within a specified timeframe, and issues like high standards and innovation in urban design, architectural quality and place-making will also be considered when allocating money.

The fund will be in operation for three years from next January. This is to allow councils prepare bids and identify projects, and to put in place the necessary governance arrangements. It will only be available in areas where there is a proven housing need.

"One of the barriers to the provision of private housing seems to be the absence of the supporting infrastructure around development sites including bridges and roads," a source said.

"This (€200m) is what has been identified as the likely need. Once this facility is in place, and once the developer is clear this will be provided, housing construction can begin in parallel. If you need to build a bridge, the housing construction can happen at the same time - which will speed up delivery of housing.

"The sites will be identified by the Department of Housing in areas where there are shortages. The fund will deal with any gaps in terms of private sector housing and will also allow for social housing to be delivered."

Some €70m will be allocated in 2017, €100m the following year and €30m in 2019.

Some of the largest landbanks in Dublin are in Fingal.

Among the issues are inadequate drainage networks, which cause overflows during periods of heavy rainfall, and a lack of road access to allow land banks to be opened up for development. A new bridge across the River Dodder is needed to drive development of the Poolbeg Peninsula, where a fast-track planning scheme is in place aimed at delivering some 3,000 homes.

In Cork, investment in roads, surface water drainage and amenities could help deliver up to 7,000 homes and similar constraints are in other areas of high demand.

Irish Independent

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