Sale of affordable houses proposed

CORK County Council is proposing to sell off to town councils most of its €140 million stock of affordable houses – some of which will be used for social housing.

Some councillors have opposed the scheme, fearing it will lead to what may be an unhealthy social mix in small estates in villages.

Councillor Kevin Murphy (FG) and Alan Coleman (FF) spoke out yesterday against the plan, citing a proposed deal to sell houses in Riverstick to Kinsale Town Council – about 10 kilometres away.

County manager Martin Riordan said the county council faced “an enormous financial commitment” and had €140m tied up in affordable housing projects.

“We want to deal with affordable housing, speed up the process. The market is very flat, we have a major headache disposing of these houses,” Mr Riordan said.

He added that one of the biggest problems was that banks aren’t giving out loans for people to purchase them.

Mr Riordan said that town councils were getting loans to buy properties and he felt it made sense to offer affordable houses to them, which they would then use as social houses.

“If the town councils don’t spend their allocations they will lose them. That’s why we have been encouraging town councils to use up their allocations. It’s a win-win for both sides,” the manager said.

Mr Riordan said the county council was around €30m short in funding from the Department of theEnvironment for its social housing commitments and the indications are grant aid will be even less next year.

Cllr John Gilroy (Lab) said the manager’s approach seemed to make sense,although he admitted he was slightly concerned that the social mix could be unbalanced by the sell-off of houses in villages.

Mr Coleman maintained it was not very pragmatic for town councils to be buying in a village.

“People in the town probably want to stay in the town, especially when the village isn’t adjacent to the town,” he said.

Mr Murphy was “shell-shocked” that Kinsale Town Council cannot buy properties in its own town.

He said the normal mix in new estates was 15 affordable houses for every fivesocial houses. Allocating more of the latter, he maintained, would upset the social mix and could have negative consequences.

“It is a step far too far for me. I can’t support this,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Riordan said eachacquisition would be looked at individually to ensure there an equitable balance.

“If town councils... [don’t] use their allocation the allocation might dry up, or be less next year,” Mr Riordan said.

Mr Gilroy proposed that councillors approve the manager’s plan.

Mr Riordan said that empty homes cost the council significant money in terms of hiring security.

“I’m trying to be practical about this. If the town council has money to spend it should use public sector funding to help itself and [the] county council. It’s a pragmatic approach to the financial problem we have,” Mr Riordan said.

He added that he had the full approval of the Department of the Environment to go ahead with the sell-off.

He told Cllr John Mulvihill (Lab) that the houses would be sold to the town councils at current market values.

Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) said he thought it was a quite practical solution.

“It doesn’t make sense that we have €140m tied up and that town councils would go and buy privately,” he said.

Cllr Sean O’Connor (Ind) said there were 600 people on the housing waiting list in Cobh and he was in favour of the manager’s proposal.

The proposal to sell off the Riverstick houses was passed.


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