Manager defends housing policy

CORK’S city manager has defended the policy of taking money from developers in lieu of affordable homes.

“It is a prudent and sensible approach,” Joe Gavin told councillors on Monday night.

Mr Gavin presented a raft of figures which show that a number of developers have paid the council a total of just over €1.4 million, since 2004, in so-called Part 5 contributions — to avoid having to hand over housing units.

Under the Part 5 process, developers are required to hand over 20% of units in any development to the local authority for use as affordable homes.

But they can also ‘buy’ their way out of handing over homes.

Figures compiled by Mr Gavin and presented to councillors on Monday showed that Owen O’Callaghan’s Riga Ltd paid €748,000 in lieu of units in its apartment complex planned for the site next to its recently developed Jurys Hotel.

O’Flynn Construction, which agreed to hand over 18 units in its Elysian Tower project, also paid €500,000 in lieu of handing over more units there.

Mr Gavin said the Riga Ltd case was a perfect example of why taking money was the best option.

“For example, the €748,000 contribution from Jurys Hotel will fund 30 units on the northside of the city while such funds would only have acquired three units in the proposed development,” he said.

“If we had insisted on units, we would have only got three. Instead, we can subsidise the cost of 30.”

The council is negotiating with at least 30 other developers, in some instances on projects that were granted permission in 2005, to secure either units or money.

Up to 28 units are the subject of talks between Frinailla Ltd and the council in its planned Dennehy’s Cross apartment complex, with a further 16 units up for discussion in its massive Blackpool project.

However, Labour Cllr Catherine Clancy criticised the delay in negotiations.

“This issue should be addressed at the planning stage,” she said.

Mr Gavin’s comments came just weeks after Department of the Environment figures showed that the city council delivered just one unit of affordable housing in the first nine months of 2006, compared to 108 delivered by the county council in the same period.

However, most of the affordable units were delivered in the last quarter of 2006.

But the city is on course to deliver over 400 new affordable houses this year.

Projects will be delivered in Blackpool, Deanrock, Old Whitechurch Road and at Camp Field.

Council housing figures show that a further 726 units will be offered for sale in 2008, exceeding targets set out in its Housing Action Plan 2004-2008.

This is in addition to the next phase of the housing development at Shanakiel, where 213 units are being delivered.

Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry has expressed serious concerns, meanwhile, about lengthy delays in the delivery of a 28-unit affordable housing project being coordinated by the Cluid housing organisation in Blackpool.

Due for completion in January 2005, the project has been beset by delays.

Cluid is planning to drop the developer and engage a new one to complete the project.

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