Thursday 17 October 2019

Council to deliver 1,321 social homes by 2021

Councillors told local authority to exceed its target

Works at Kilbride Lane in Bray
Works at Kilbride Lane in Bray

Eimear Dodd

Wicklow County Council plans to exceed its target for the number of social homes built by 2021.

The Government has set the Council a target of 1,225 homes by 2021. However, the Council says that it plans to provide 1,321 homes over this period.

This figure will achieved through a combination of the Council's own building programme, turnkeys and the portion of any housing development set aside for social and affordable housing under developer's Part V obligations.

At September's meeting, there were two presentations of the Council's Housing Supply Programme. Breege Kilkenny, senior engineer and a manager of Wicklow's Housing Capital Construction Programme, spoke about the council's target for social housing. Under the Rebuilding Ireland programme, Wicklow's target is 1,225 units by 2021. Ms Kilkenny indicated that the Council's housing strategy would see Wicklow achieve 1,321 homes over this period through construction and turnkey. The local authority's strategic change towards rapid build construction was discussed. The local authority planned to build 557 homes itself over this period.

Public representatives were told that 82 units would be completed in total in 2019 including Oakdrive in Blessington and Whitehall in Baltinglass. Ms Kilkenny noted that the housing section was on site with 11 schemes including Kilbride Lane in Bray. 226 housing units are expected to be delivered in 2020 with 249 homes due in 2021.

Rachel Gillepsie, HAP homeless finder and staff member in charge of the HAP section, then outlined the services offered by the HAP section. She said that 1,420 HAP tenancies have been created in the county since its introduction in 2016.

During the discussion, Cllr Steven Matthews (Green) asked if the Part V figures for 2021 included all new builds expected in that year.

Cllr Grace McManus (SF) asked if the Council used the repair and leasing scheme. She also asked if Ms Gillepsie had noticed an increase in demand for HAP services.

Cllr Patsy Glennon (FF) noted that the one house at Oak Drive, Blessington seemed to be the only property north of Baltinglass. As the Municipal District is a long constituency, Cllr Glennon said it was 'quite alarming' that there wasn't more houses in the northern section.

Cllr Mags Crean (Ind) raised a concern about Brexit-proofing the delivery of social housing and a services plan for the projects. Cllr Gerry Walsh (FF) asked about landlords' engagement with HAP.

Cllr Gerry O'Neill (Ind) noted that only one social house had been built in Blessington in the past 12 years, but he was hopeful this would change soon. Cllr O'Neill also asked if Wicklow County Council had approached Kildare County Council in relation to a housing project due to start in March 2020 on the county border. He said that 'we in the area feel it's not really fair' that property tax and levies are paid to Kildare County Council but Wicklow County Council provides the services.

Cllr Edward Timmins (FG) raised a question about the plans for council lands zoned for housing in Blessington. Cllr John Mullen (FF) asked about the process of appeal to An Bord Pleanala in relation to fast-tracked Part 8 applications. He also queried if local authority tenants, particularly from County Dublin where there is higher HAP threshold is higher, were renting in south or west Wicklow.

Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (FF) thanked council staff for their work and said while the Arklow Municipal District was facing into a 'dire situation for housing', recent allocations and the proposal for the Arklow Wastewater Treatment Plant gave some hope to people on the social housing list.

Cllr Anne Ferris (Lab) asked if there was other public land available and plans to develop it.

In reply to the councillors' questions, Sean Quirke, Director of Services, Planning, Development and Environment said that government policy had been to minimise acquisitions in favour of new builds. He said that the lack of sewage in Blessington had affected supply in town. Mr Quirke also said that he had spoken with Kildare County Council's Director of Services about social homes. The Council had advertised for the repair and lease scheme, but uptake had been slow. He said that the Council had used most of its available residential land.

Frank Curran, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, said some sites remained in the land bank and the information would be provided to councillors.

Rachel Gillepsie said a concern about people from Dublin renting in Wicklow had been raised at a recent workshop. The cap was the same for both counties and Dublin contacted them to check the rent. As HAP homefinder, Ms Gillepsie said there had been positive engagement from landlords. Mr Quirke told members there would be a further presentation in October.

Bray People