Ó Murchú: Land Bank interest payments strangling Louth County Council finances

“The land banks held by Louth County Council need to be part of any housing solution by central government”, says Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú.

“Sinn Féin does not think much of Eoghan Murphy’s deflective proposals to strip County Councils of powers to deal with emergency accommodation and our planned motion of no confidence in him is well highlighted.

“The government’s idea of a Land Development Agency would only be worthwhile if  adequately resourced and operating greater, more realistic home building targets.

“Many of these land banks were bought by Louth County Council for building social and affordable housing, as was required by the government of the time. Not only are they not being built on but to date Louth County Council’s finances are being strangled by paying interest on loans on these lands. Next year the cost of this will be an estimated €1.5 million on loans of about €60 million.”

Cllr Ó Murchú described the situation as ‘ludicrous’.

Ruairi at a recent Housing Presentation by Eoin Ó Broin

“We have a responsibility to the people of Louth to ensure their budgets are being used properly and appropriately. People are entitled to value for money and it’s unjustifiable to have over €1.5 million taken out of your budget before you even start and have nothing to show for it.”

Louth County Council is also facing the daunting prospect at the end of the year of having to deal with the capital element of some of these loans.

Some of these land banks were purchased at the height of the boom and are worth a lot less now making it unviable for the land to be sold off according to Louth County Council. Councillors were told at the recent Louth County Council budget meeting that one of the last batches of land bought by LCC were purchased for €1.3 million per acre. These same lands would be lucky to fetch €400,000 per acre in today’s market leaving LCC ‘on the hook’ for the outstanding debt. LCC officials stated they have used this situation to force the issue with Central Government and will continue to make representations to them.

The government in tandem with Louth County Council needs to assess which lands are most suitable for necessary home building and to put plans in operation. If lands are not economically or any other way viable for housing, they should be looked at from a point of view of IDA development or some other solution

Either way, they have been bought by the state and the state needs to find an answer rather than compounding Louth County Council’s problem with underfunding from Central government.

Cllr Ó Murchú said “Across this state we have about 10,000 people in emergency homeless accommodation, tens of thousands of households on the housing waiting list and a huge level of tenants on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) at a huge cost to the state. We have a huge cohort paying exorbitant rents and many unable to purchase their own homes.”

Sinn Féin is enthusiastically supporting the ICTU led ‘Raise the Roof: Homes for All’ rally which will take place outside the Dáil on October 3rd at 12.30pm.

A number of elected reps and activists travelled to Carrickmacross to hear Eoin O’Broin highlight this rally and to hear Sinn Féin proposals to address the public housing problem in this state.