Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
It is great to see three Ministers here tonight, which is very important. Affordable and social housing are more important now than ever. Can the Minister outline the status of the progression of social housing developments in County Carlow?
Deputy Murnane O'Connor joined the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and I at the opening of three wonderful housing projects in Castlecomer and Kilkenny city last week, which is always a positive day. It is so uplifting to hand keys over to families and new tenants for very high-quality, A2-rated, highly efficient and well-designed homes. That is what we are attempting to achieve, and will achieve, with Housing for All.
Increasing the supply of social and affordable homes is a priority for this Government, as shown clearly in the new Housing for All strategy. Following the recent launch of the strategy, last week we issued social housing targets to all local authority chief executives for the five years 2022 to 2026. Of the national target of over 50,000 new social homes, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is asking Carlow County Council to deliver 464 over those years, through its own projects and also working with the housing associations. I acknowledge that Carlow County Council, with good support from public representatives, has always delivered well on its social housing targets to date. It also has a solid pipeline of new projects in place and I am keen that it advances these as speedily as possible.
New social housing projects are already on-site in areas such as at Chapelstown in Carlow town and at Ballickmoyler in Graigcullen, while I hope to see others such as the 22 homes planned for Gleann na Bearú in Bagenalstown move through planning and procurement as soon as possible and start on-site. Under Housing for All, the funding is in place to support Carlow County Council and all councils, and the housing associations to get these housing projects built.
I was delighted to meet the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, in Castlecomer last week. I welcome the fact that Carlow local authority has been given the target of 464 homes. However, I have concerns. One relates to the HAP scheme to apply to go on the local authority housing list. As I said previously, Carlow's ceiling is too low. Second, the Simon Communities is saying that HAP is not the answer to our problems. I agree with that. While I welcome the AHBs and the fact that we are looking at affordable housing through all local authorities, because Carlow does not have any, we must address these issues as quickly as possible. There is one issue I wish to address, and I have three issues to put to the Minister of State tonight. Recently, I have been working with people who are on the Carlow County Council local authority list and who now might wish to move to Laois County Council or Kildare County Council. If they go onto another local authority list, they lose their years on the Carlow County Council housing list. That is unacceptable. These changes are easy enough to do. Can the Minister of State put something in Housing for All whereby if somebody wants to go from one local authority housing list to another, he or she does not lose his or her place on the housing list?
In terms of the social housing pipeline for Carlow, to respond to the Deputy's question, the construction status report for the first quarter of 2021 showed 13 projects, to deliver 229 social homes, were either at design or planning stage or on-site in Carlow. Details of these projects are available on the construction status report. In addition, there has been some impact from Covid-19 which resulted in some restrictions on construction activity from 8 January to 12 April this year. However, the restrictions allowed for designated social housing projects scheduled for completion by 30 April to continue. Ten projects, delivering 140 new social homes, continued construction under the designations in County Carlow.
We will take up the issue raised by the Deputy with regard to moving to different local authority housing lists.
Last week, I brought my first Bill to the Dáil. It provides that people who apply to go on the local authority housing list only have to wait for three weeks. There are 31 local authorities and we do not know how long it is going to be. There could be information sent and then coming and going. That is my Bill for the future and it has the support of the parliamentary party.
My other question relates to a huge issue. Every day I have people coming to my clinics who, through no fault of theirs, have separated. Once their name is on a mortgage or a house, they cannot qualify to go back on another housing list or qualify for supports. I ask the Minister of State to address this urgently.
On another matter, I wish to thank the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. I have been working on a major project with Carlow town council relating to a big housing project in Carlow town. It is in an area where there is a lot of housing and many of the houses need support. They have never had services. This is a local community project that will serve thousands of houses and give them the services they need. I thank the Minister for sending officials from the Department next week. I just want to say that everyone is doing their best and I know we can deliver.
With regard to the community centre hub at Tullow Road in Carlow town, the Deputy made the valid point that the community hub could serve over 2,000 houses on the Tullow Road. It is a vital amenity for the community and will provide a lifeline for children and the community alike. The land is owned by Carlow County Council and, as such, the project is being led by Carlow County Council as there was a necessity for this project to service the community. The estimated cost of the hub is €2.5 million. Funding for such a hub would not be provided under the housing capital budget, especially when there is no new housing being developed in that area. However, given that the issue has been raised, we plan to visit Carlow town to look at the area and to consider any options with the local authority when we get an opportunity. With regard to Housing for All, a key component of the policy is creating sustainable communities, so a project like this is something that deserves worthy consideration.