Leitrim County Council may need to purchase more land for housing
Leitrim County Council has a shortage of land banks throughout the county and admitted it must purchase land to help meet social housing targets for the next five years.
Councillors in the Ballinamore and Manorhamilton Municipal Districts were presented with an outline of the Council's Housing Delivery Action Plan 2022-2026 at their respective monthly meetings last Monday.
Director of Services with responsibility for housing, Mary Quinn, explained to the members the targets which have been set out to them by Government for the next five years.
The Government's ‘Housing for All’ plan is a multi-annual and multi-billion Euro plan to improve Ireland's housing system over the next decade.
Over the next five years of the plan, the Council has been set a target of 139 social housing units but have built in a contingency by providing for a target of 180 in that timeframe.
The focus of the plan has moved from acquisitions to direct build and for that reason the Council now needs to increase it's land banks throughout the county, particularly where the greater demand lies.
Cllr Enda McGloin queried what available land the Council has to build these houses on. He was told the Council has very limited options at the moment with Ms Quinn informing local representatives that the Council has “exhausted all our land banks across the county.”
Cllr McGloin also asked if sufficient land is zoned for housing. He said he understood that it is not zoned for housing around Drumshanbo.
Ms Quinn said the housing team will need to discuss zoning and other issues with the planning department, as zoning around towns and villages may need to be altered.
Addressing members of the Ballinamore area, Ms Quinn explained Leitrim County Council has received 231 Local Authority Housing Group Scheme applications in 2021. This is in line with prior years where 240 applications were received in 2020 and 235 in 2019.
She said the most sought after accommodation is one and two bed homes. Within the plan the Council has also set out to renovate old vacant houses.
The Ballinamore Municipal District meeting was informed that single people receive social welfare pay between €30-€35 per week on rent for social houses, while families pay approximately €60.
To avail of the tenant purchase scheme to buy out a Council house, tenants need to have 20% of their income coming from an employer.
Under the plan itself, the Council is required to set out the breakdown of how they are going to deliver those units and also the type of units to be provided, based on the demand.
Ms Quinn reiterated to the Manorhamilton area councillors that demand is quite high for one and two bed units and that had to be reflected in their delivery of the units.
Cllr Sean McDermott said there is no existing land banks in some areas, notably Rossinver, Kiltyclogher, Glenfarne, Lurganboy and Glencar, and a future land bank is needed.
“Sometimes you can encourage house building if you have a land bank, I think it's essential for the weaker areas,” he said. “It can be small, it doesn't have to be large, but it's important. It was there in the past but it seems to be diminishing by the year,” he added.
Cllr Justin Warnock said the local authority has no land bank in Tullaghan or Kinlough but yet it has bought a substantial number of houses in Kinlough in recent years. He said the demand for housing is getting greater. Ms Quinn agreed that for the Council to build in Kinlough it will have to purchase land.
She explained the target figures are based on an assessment of social housing demand which is 177, excluding transfers. She said the social housing list generally remains in the range of 170 to 190 at any point with people coming on and dropping off the list.
She said the Council will keep it under review on an annual basis that it is providing the units where the demand exists and the right type of units for that demand.
Cllr Padraig Fallon said demand is increasing for family type dwellings being sought. “We know that even in households with two incomes they can't get access to mortgages or properties. I'm delighted it is under annual review,” he said.
Cllr Felim Gurn said there is a strong demand for social housing in Manorhamilton but a big issue is the availability of the proper type of housing, for example for single mothers or a family of four.
“We need to earmark what we can do for people in that situation,” he said.
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