A significant change in national housing policy is to be implemented by the Government due in no small part to an intervention made by Waterford’s Fine Gael TD John Deasy.

During a discussion with Housing Minister Michael Finneran, Deputy Deasy made a case for permitting local authorities to enter into long-term leasing arrangements with developers to get stalled building developments moving again.

Thanks to the new financial arrangement which councils can now avail of, Deputy Deasy believes the conditions are now in place to get the construction industry moving positively again.

“We need to get money moving again locally,” he said.

“Some of these planned housing projects were going nowhere because the Department [of the Environment] doesn’t have the money to spend.

“All that was needed was a simple change in the mindset as far as how government deals with developers. In Waterford, projects are being held back and a new approach was needed for them to proceed.”

Prior to his discussions with the Minister, Deputy Deasy is believed to have consulted with officers at local authority level in Waterford who also recognised the merits in his long-term leasing approach.

Given the many land banks with nothing doing at present, as well as the ‘ghost’ estates now littering the country, this proposal may serve to stimulate a flagging trade. It’s certainly a step in t he right direction.

“In many cases the work is ready to start,” added Deputy Deasy, referring to projects that have been held back across Waterford.

“The planning permission has been dealt with and the developer has been identified. Under the new arrangement the developer can build the houses or apartments and will be able to lease them to the local authority over the course of a specified period of time, after which the local authority has the option to buy them back. The value of the units will, if necessary, be determined by an independent arbiter.”

During a Dáil debate on the Housing Bill in April, John Deasy hinted at what has now since come to light. “If the system were changed a little and if local authorities were given the latitude to enter into long-term leasing arrangements, their needs could be met and it would allow money to start flowing into local economies throughout the country.”

On the specifics of the new arrangement, Deputy Deasy said: “The policy of leasing newly built houses is fine but it doesn’t suit the needs of many local authorities and it doesn’t necessarily generate growth in local economies.

“For example, an empty housing estate two miles from a town centre won’t be suitable for a senior citizens development. By entering into these long term leasing arrangements it spurs construction again and meets the needs of social and affordable housing requirements.

“In some cases there was very little take up when the local authorities advertised for existing housing stock and that’s why we need to provide them with an alternative mechanism to deal with their housing lists.”

It is believed that the Department of the Environment will deal with any new leasing arrangements under existing legislation on a case by case basis.

“The important thing is to generate money locally again,” added Deputy Deasy.

“It’s a question of creating jobs, but it’s also about shops being busier and creating some momentum in local economies.

“The Government has the ability to be that catalyst for changing the business dynamic in local economies. Hopefully this change in housing policy will help do just that.”