Thursday, 5 February 2004
Local Authority Housing.
I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Ahern, to the House to address the issue of Glenma housing scheme in Croom, County Limerick and thank him for his help and consideration in this regard over the past 12 months. This application has been ongoing for some time regarding an estate of 43 houses, some in council and some in private ownership. The houses are flat-roofed with no chimneys and poor heating systems and occupants cannot get insurance for them. An application for refurbishment works has been made by Limerick County Council and I understand that detailed drawings and costings have been submitted to the Department.
I urge the Minister to support approval of the application which would allow the county council to tender for this project. The occupants have suffered through the years since the houses were built, at the same time as the Ballymun flats, under the auspices of the National Building Agency. I understand they are one of the last schemes of this type in the country not to have been refurbished.
I thank Senator Brennan for raising this issue. Glenma housing estate is a private estate of 43 houses built by the National Building Agency in 1973. Some 35 houses are privately owned which were sold as private purchases when the estate was originally built, and Limerick County Council owns and rents the remaining eight houses. The houses were constructed with a flat roof and the first floor is finished with a metal cladding fixed to a timber stud wall which forms the internal frame of the houses. There are various defects with the houses and these include leaking roofs and poor quality external cladding which is in general no longer weatherproof.
Limerick County Council submitted a proposal to my Department to refurbish the estate under the improvement works in lieu of housing scheme. The proposed works include the provision of new pitched roofs to replace existing flat roofs, the re-cladding of external walls and the upgrading of windows, external doors and external finishes.
The improvement works programme allows local authorities to improve or extend privately owned accommodation occupied by households which are assessed to be eligible for local authority housing as an alternative to being re-housed by the local authority. This scheme would not normally be used to upgrade an entire estate but this is considered to be an exceptional case and my Department has agreed in principle, since 2002, to have the improvement works carried out under this scheme.
Under the scheme, the householders will be required to make repayments for the cost of the works to the local authority based on the ability of households to pay. I understand extensive discussions have been held between the county council and local residents and that 27 out of 35 households in private ownership are fully supportive of the council's plans for refurbishment in the manner proposed. I also understand that at this time the remaining eight residents are not interested in having refurbishment work carried out on their homes. The plans as they now stand are for works to 27 private residences and eight local authority-owned residences.
Drawings and a cost estimate were received in my Department from the county council on 29 January 2004. These are now under technical examination in my Department and I expect that Limerick County Council will be informed of the outcome of this examination in the near future.