‘Extend boundary or housing will dry up’

A local authority’s ability to meet housing demand could be “fundamentally compromised” unless Cork’s city boundary is extended, top city officials have warned.

And they have also called for more autonomy to make decisions at local level to speed up the delivery of social housing, and for other local authorities to use a fast-track procurement process which has worked in Cork.

Cork City Council deputy chief executive, Pat Ledwidge, and its head of housing, Valerie O’Sullivan, made the comments after their appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing on Thursday.

“Historically, a third of all the city’s housing units have been delivered by Cork City Council,” Mr Ledwidge said yesterday.

“In doing so, the city has also excelled in maintaining a sustainable social balance — something which should not be taken for granted.

“However, it is an ongoing concern for me that the capacity of Cork City to continue to meet housing demand in a sustainable manner is now fundamentally compromised by the scarcity of development land within the existing city boundary.”

Their presentation to the Oireachtas committee came ahead of a meeting of councillors and officials next Wednesday with former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon, who has rejected the 2015 Smiddy council merger report in favour of retaining the two local authorities, and extending the city boundary to include areas such as Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill.

The officials told the Oireachtas committee Cork city’s population increased by 5%, or 4,390 people, from 2011 to 2016, as employment levels increased 9%.

They said the figures are encouraging but underline the urgent need to address the housing supply shortage. Unless that is tackled, it is a potential obstacle to future employment and economic growth in Cork City, they said.

Ms O’Sullivan said the council’s use of the EU Competitive Dialogue Procurement procedure has proven very successful in unlocking development sites much faster than traditional procurement models.

Work on 195 units is under way on six sites, with work on 164 units on eight more sites due to start in September. The council has a target to provide another 1,293 social housing units by 2021.

The council has secured €15.5m from the Government to fund infrastructure for a council-owned site at Old Whitechurch Road which could deliver up to 600 units, and two sites in the south docklands which could deliver 800 units.

But, while activity in the student apartment sector has picked up with some 500 units in the pipeline, private sector interest in developing apartments is stagnant.

The council is also surveying residential land and housing supply in the city and plans to host a workshop with the Cork construction and property sector, to promote the provision of housing and to identify any likely barriers.

“When the demands present and resources are made available, Cork City Council has always delivered. We will continue to address the city’s housing needs once the necessary resources are available to us,” Ms O’Sullivan said.


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