City & County Councillors, speaking at last Thursday’s Plenary Council meeting in City Hall, want a housing summit to be held within 30 days to deal with the extent of the local housing crisis. And that’s a means of addressing this issue that this newspaper would both support and endorse.
The summit is likely to involve developers, the Construction Industry Federation, WIT, owners of land banks across the city and county, in addition to lending institutions and the local authority itself.
“I think it’s very important that while we talk every month in relation to social housing, there’s a serious lack of supply in relation to private housing and we are the owners of significant land banks here in the city also,” said Cllr John Cummins (FG), who won support from Cllr Jim Griffin (SF) for his proposal.
Given the lack of housing builds in Waterford, despite some visible movement of late on quite a range of sites, the delay in delivery is the end product of years of negligible house building as a means to reduce the Council’s housing list. So taking this into account, a meeting of minds and a focused timeline will hopefully emerge from such a summit.
The nature of Irish planning laws can, of course, also serve to delay matters. Only last week, we saw how Apple lost patience after three years in relation to a proposed €850 million data centre in Athenry, which will now be constructed elsewhere.
Added to that, there has also been some over regulation in the sector, which has led to additional costs and, in turn, a reduction in one-off housing which again has fed into the reduction in supply and delivery.
Cllr Jim Griffin, speaking in City Hall on Thursday last, also called for the presence of tenant organisations at the summit (“Broaden it out and have everyone around the one table.”) In response to Cllrs Cummins and Griffin, Housing Director of Services Ivan Grimes said he could foresee no difficulty with the holding of such a summit.
We welcome the moves made by local Councillors to take what would appear to be a national lead on this issue and one hopes all agencies who wish to make their voices heard at such a gathering will be facilitated. Last month, Council CEO Michael Walsh said he believes that the Metropolitan Area alone should be providing between 500 and 600 annual builds “in the years to come” with at least 100 of those builds specified to address the housing list. This news broke in and around the same time Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy stated his hope that at least 165 social house builds would be achieved by Waterford City & County Council this year.
John Cummins also made a very relevant point in relation to the creation of new affordable housing propositions given, as he pointed out during last Thursday’s meeting, that many people are earning too much for social housing but too little in terms of landing a mortgage. Again, there may be an opportunity for Waterford to take a lead here. thus providing a template for the rest of the country’s local authorities to fall in behind. That the matter wasn’t reduced to a political football in City Hall last week suggests that New Politics, at least in local terms, might well have some life in it yet.