Vow to fast-track social housing projects

The Government is determined to fast-track the delivery of more social housing projects, Junior Housing Minister Damien English has insisted.

Damien English, Lady Mayoress Georgina Fitzgerald, Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald with Johnny O'Shea. Pic: Jim Coughlan

But available land will have to be used more efficiently, with more high-rise, high-density developments likely in appropriate locations, he said.

His department is due to issue new building height guidance to local authorities within a matter of weeks, he confirmed.

Mr English was speaking yesterday at the official handing over of 52 new homes to families in Knocknaheeny, on the northside of Cork City, which were developed by Deermount Construction in two phases worth €10.2m as part of Cork City Council’s ambitious North West Quarter Regeneration Plan (NWQRP) which aims to deliver 650 homes across a vast swathe of the city’s northside.

Against the backdrop of rising homeless figures and soaring property costs, he also turned the sod on the third phase of the plan which will deliver 47 homes to be built by Murnane and O’Shea under an €11.8m contract.

“The key to solving the housing crisis is supply,” he said. “This is one of 720 such sites around the country. There were about 7,000 social housing units built last year — 8,000 this year.

“That’s how you solve the housing crisis. Rebuilding Ireland wasn’t a plan for one year. It’s a five-year plan and is ahead of targets in many areas.”

The new townhouses and apartments handed over yesterday, and which have replaced existing housing in the area, are a mix of two and three bedroom homes, are all ‘A’ energy rated and feature solar panels to reduce energy bills.

Johnny O’Shea and his wife Margaret, who raised six children in a old council house on nearby Harbour View Rd over the last 45 years, said they were delighted with their new home at Killary Green.

“The old house was shocking — the rooms upstairs were black from dampness, rain was pouring down the walls, subsidence, and the heating, we couldn’t heat the place,” he said.

“But the new house — it’s like Buckingham Palace. It’s fantastic. We’re putting our own touches to it, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Local Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould welcomed the homes but he said progress on the overall regeneration project has been painfully slow.

“I attended my first meeting on this regeneration project 18 years ago and here we are, not even 50% through it,” he said.

“We are waiting on the department of environment to release every penny. It could be another 10 years before the job is finished. They need to give the money to Cork City Council to get the job done. We have land here to build on.”

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, also welcomed the new homes but said the investment in bricks and mortar must be backed by investment in supporting social services.

The city council has funding approval for another 104 houses in subsequent phases of the CNWQR Plan —schemes worth almost €30m. The plans will be advertised for Part 8 planning in the coming weeks.

The CNWQR plan plans to deliver 650 homes in the area, as well as a new primary care centre provided by the HSE on the nearby Saint Mary’s Campus and Cork City Council has also provided a new library.

There are currently 361 social housing units under construction across the city.

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