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.

Imelda Munster criticises lack of social housing building in Louth, as council land banks lie idle.

imelda-munster-tdSinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster TD has again raised the matter of council landbanks in County Louth in the Dáil. Questioning Damien English TD, Minister of State in the Department of Housing, she asked whether the Minister’s department had completed collating the data for the landbanks available for housing and criticised the lack of progress in delivering housing for the people of Louth.

Deputy Munster said:

“The situation in County Louth is shocking, and given the scale of the housing crisis I am sure that is replicated right across the State. There are almost 4,000 people on the housing waiting list in County Louth, many of whom have been waiting more than nine years to be housed. The number of applicants on the housing waiting lists exceeds the entire supply of council-owned housing stock in County Louth, which is a shocking statistic to bring to the attention of the House.”

“Meanwhile, there are 54 acres of council-zoned landbanks throughout the county on which Louth County Council pays €3 million a year in interest only for the loans. Citizens are deprived of vital services and amenities because the council must pay such an amount in interest, while the land lies idle and barren as not a single house has yet been built.”

Deputy Munster also criticised the government’s slow progress in rolling out a proper social housing scheme, 8 months on from the launch of the Rebuilding Ireland document.

Deputy Munster:

“We are now over eight months on from the launch of Rebuilding Ireland, and the government has still not completed the mapping of the local authority landbanks. This should have been completed a long time ago, long before the publication of Rebuilding Ireland. It beggars belief that in the middle of a housing crisis the Minister had not ascertained what land belonged to local authorities across the State.”

“The Minister of State indicated there are 26 different projects but only six are being done by the local authority. The rest are from public-private partnerships and approved housing bodies. With the six developments, there will be a total of 123 homes over the next two to three years. There are 4,000 people on the housing list.

“Of those 123 homes, 20 have an unknown date of completion, seven are regeneration projects and 24 come from the acquisition of vacant units. There are three renovations included in that figure.”

“The government seems to be saying that Louth should be happy enough with 123 houses, with only a certain number being newly built, over the next three to four years, in the middle of a housing emergency.”

“It is clear as a bell that the Government’s entire policy to solve the housing crisis is developer-led and developer-driven and completely ineffective”.

 

Government refuse to act as Louth sees highest of rent rises – Imelda Munster TD

imelda-munster-tdSinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has lambasted government inaction following a report by Daft.ie outlining rent increases across the state which revealed that Louth has seen the biggest increase in rents for private rental accommodation.

Louth has seen rents rise by 17.3% as has Meath, with Kerry seeing the lowest at 6.9%.

Deputy Munster said:

“What compounds the rent crisis further is the Government’s refusal to include Drogheda, the largest provincial town, in the Rent Pressure Zone which would have restricted the rise in rent increases to a maximum of 4% in towns that have the highest rents and where people have a nightmare finding affordable accommodation to rent. I have written to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney to request that Drogheda be included in the Rent Pressure Zone as it has been given the Commuter Rate of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) preciously due of high rental costs.

“There is a chronic shortage of social housing in Drogheda and throughout the county and this government’s response to the crisis is to force people into private rental accommodation through HAP, knowing full well the spiralling costs of private rental accommodation locally and the refusal of many landlords to accept people on the Housing Assistance Payment. We have over 53 acres of land banks in Louth, over 20 acres of which are in Drogheda, zoned for housing lying idle in the midst of a housing emergency and yet, this Government refuse, as did the previous Government, to fund the roll out of a social housing building programme.”

Munster raises Council Land Banks lying Idle in Louth while almost 6,000 on Housing List

imelda-munster-tdSinn Féin TD Imelda Munster raised the issue of the 54 acres of council owned land banks for housing lying barren in Drogheda and throughout Louth while over five thousand people wait to be housed.

Deputy Munster asked the Minister if he would give a commitment to fund the local authorities in Louth to enable them to build social housing on the land banks that the council have already purchased and reserved for housing in order to deal with the crisis.

The Minister was told of the ludicrous situation whereby the council are currently forced to pay 3 million in interest only on the 54 acres of land whilst it lies idle, and that money comes out of the councils own budget for housing maintenance and extensions for people with disabilities.

Deputy Munster accused the government of handing over our housing crisis to private developers. The Sinn Fein TD discovered through questions that the Minister for Housing had not even contacted local councils to find out what lands they had available to build houses on despite being in the midst of a housing crisis.

Of the almost 54 acres that we have in Louth, we have 20.4 acres in Drogheda.

This land needs to be utilised with the rolling of a government funded social housing building programme in order to deal with the housing crisis which is only set to worsen by government inaction.