Lord Mayor of Cork hits back at Housing Minister

By Darragh Bermingham

The Lord Mayor of Cork has slammed the Housing Minister's threat to remove power from local authorities for failing to deal with housing issues.

Cork's first citizen, Cllr Mick Finn, instead pointed the finger at the red tape surrounding the delivery of housing projects, claiming that the time between local approval and the granting of funding is too long.

Mr Finn pointed to projects in Togher, Ballyphehane, Barrack Street, White Street and High Street as just some of the examples where issues have emerged in Cork, adding that some schemes still haven't started despite being approved by City Hall more than 12 months ago.

"It seems that the Minister doesn't trust councils to do the job," Mr Finn said.

"There are great projects being put forward and signed off on by Cork councils and they’re being hamstrung by the bureaucracy in the Housing Department where everything is going back and forth, being double, triple and quadruple checked."

The Lord Mayor said local authorities haven’t been given the flexibility to work on the ground. He cited a development of four housing units in Ballyphehane as an example.

“Expressions of interest were sought in 2015 and they only went on site in May 2018,” he said.

“The procurement process in between all this took three years. The minister can change this with the stroke of a pen,” he said.

“The Deanrock development has seen significant delays since it was signed off on by the council.

“The development on White Street has started but it’s been 12 months since approval was given by councillors. Barrack Street and High Street haven’t started yet, despite the fact that councillors signed off on them over a year ago.

“I understand there has to be oversight of public monies, but to me, it’s mired in red tape.

“It’s a small bit rich for the minister to come out and blame councils for this when in fact, it’s his department, in my opinion, causing a lot of delays and throwing up obstacles.”

Minister Murphy has written to three Dublin councils threatening to remove some of their powers if they do not immediately tackle the homelessness crisis. He is expected to write to more.

“We invited the minister for housing to come to Cork not long after he was appointed to discuss some of the housing issues that are prevalent in Cork,” said the Lord Mayor.

“While Dublin has probably the most severe issues, we have a very serious problem with housing and homelessness here in Cork. The Minister is yet to speak to us.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday denied claims that the Government is seeking to shift blame for the housing crisis to local authorities.

This story first appeared in the Evening Echo.

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