THE construction of 27 social housing units in the Rosehill estate off the Kells Road in the city environs has been called into question by some members of Kilkenny Borough Council.
The houses are being built as part of a “Part V (5)” requirement, in which a local authority can require up to 20% of a residential development to be for affordable and social housing. The units or land can be provided on site or off site, or a compensation payment can be made in lieu to the council.
The issue was raised by Cllr Joe Malone (FF) at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting, although this estate is in a County Council area.
“Will the 27 houses be allocated from the housing list?” he asked. “I hope that when it is being considered that you would consider people from St Patrick’s and St Mary’s (parishes).”
Cllr Malone said it “beggars belief” to build 27 houses in Rosehill “when there are so many vacant units in the city”.
Saying that he shared “the concerns of the residents of Rosehill estate,” Cllr David Fitzgerald (FG) asked why there was not a “peppering” of social housing within the estate instead of having “a large number of social houses dropped into one corner of the estate in an approach that neither integrates people into the community nor assists in the development of the estate”.
Cllr Fitzgerald also said that “purchasers of houses in Rosehill estate were assured that social housing would not be delivered on the site”.
People have invested large amounts of money in these houses and most are in negative equity, he said, and there is a belief that this Part V arrangement “will further undermine the value of the estate”.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF) said greater consultation should have taken place with the residents.
The council’s director of services John McCormack replied that the delivery of these social housing units was a condition of the original planning permission granted in 2004.
He said the units would be allocated to some of the current 1,785 applicants for housing assistance in the city and environs.
At the time when planning permission for the estate was granted, he said, “the developer was reluctant to agree” on specifics of Part V housing, but there was an understanding that the units would be provided in the Butts area. “We had preliminary design on that land, but in the end it wasn’t delivered” and instead the land was sold privately, he said.
A “peppering” of units was the preferred option, but “the legislation wasn’t strong enough for us to impose anything”, Mr McCormack said. Regarding any guarantee given to residents, he said “the council is not a party to that”.
“We are delivering on the planning permission,” he said. “Part V is a valid part of that development.”
Pointing out that when the Part V arrangement was introduced nationally in 2002-2003 “the aim was to achieve desegregation”, Mr McCormack said it had been the main way of delivering social housing in Kilkenny. “That policy has worked very well in Kilkenny,” he said, adding that this led to Kilkenny County Council being among few Local Authorities in the state who didn’t purchase lands at the peak of the market.