Thursday, 23 June 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
15. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will provide an update on affordable housing in Cork city; and if he is satisfied with the progress of the scheme. [32973/22]
As outlined in my response to an earlier question, two affordable housing fund supported schemes will deliver affordable housing in Cork city this year. Cork City Council has advised my Department that the first two phases of the Boherboy Road project in Cork city, involving a total of 117 affordable purchase homes, will see 37 of those homes completed. They will be advertised for purchase in July. In addition, the advance purchase development at Cluain Chaoin in Tower will deliver 36 affordable purchase homes in two phases. I understand that the scheme of priority in respect of phase 1 of this development is to be presented to Cork City Council on Monday, 11 July and, if adopted - we need the city council to do that - that scheme will also be advertised in July. That is an advance purchase arrangement that we provided the funds for to bring more affordable homes in.
Approval in principle has also been confirmed for approximately 900 new cost rental homes to be delivered in urban centres by approved housing bodies, AHBs, under the cost rental equity loan scheme to the period 2023. Of these initial approvals, approximately 150 are scheduled to be delivered in Cork city in 2022 and 2023, across four different sites. The first 73 cost rental homes in Cork city at Lancaster Gate will be later this year. I had the pleasure of visiting that last year and seeing the work ongoing. The Land Development Agency, LDA, is currently developing and working on the former HSE site at St. Kevin's Hospital in Cork city. The LDA has secured planning, thankfully, for 265 social and affordable homes. These homes are expected at the end of 2023. We expect to break ground in St. Kevin's in Cork this year.
I will come back with further information in my supplementary response.
Cork City Council was only set a target of 78 affordable homes on average each year between now and 2025. That target is too low. Something the Minister has to be very aware of and the Government has to be extremely careful of is that they are creating the expectation for people who are trapped in a housing crisis that affordable homes and cost rentals will be delivered. The Minister outlined statistics. I do not disagree with any of them. It is the timeline that I disagree with, because I do not believe those developments will be delivered in that time. Some 78 homes for a city with the population of Cork does not go anywhere near meeting the need that is there.
Let us be honest. The Minister signed the affordable housing regulations in April, even though the legislation was passed before the summer recess last year. We engaged very constructively with the legislation at the housing committee, even though there are flaws in it. We saw it as probably the only way someone could get an affordable house under this Government. The Minister is not meeting the targets and the targets are not ambitious enough.
There are further advance purchase schemes coming to us that are under consideration by me and the Department, because the affordable housing fund is open. It is an open call where we bring schemes forward, so the Deputy will see more than this being delivered. The Deputy will also see the first home scheme, which will support affordable purchases of new homes in the private market, and that will operate nationwide. It is targeted at first-time buyers or those eligible under the fresh start principle. The scheme will be delivered via a strategic partnership between the State and participating mortgage lenders and it will be launched in July. It will improve access to newly built homes by using a shared equity model to bridge the gap between the mortgage finance someone has and the finance that they need. I assume that, in the context of Cork, the Deputy will be advising his constituents and helping them to apply to the first home shared equity scheme, which he has criticised throughout this entire process.
It is going to work. We are going to deliver affordable homes through our local authorities and we are going to deliver affordable homes through the LDA. The Deputy’s party does not want the LDA to develop any homes. It does not even want the agency to plan to deliver homes. I hope that when the homes at St. Kevin's in Cork are opened, the Deputy will not turn up that day because his party did not want the LDA to even exist.
I just want to make one point. The average cost of a house in Cork under this agency is €323,000, which is €50,000 more than the average purchase price. That is what the Minister will be supplying in Togher this year.