Cork trade union activists call for municipal housing authority
New body would help to accelerate the building of public housing, says One Cork group
Simon Coveney: One Cork had received a sympathetic hearing from the Minister for Housing, said Stephen Kennedy of the group. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Trade union activists in Cork are calling for the establishment of a municipal housing authority they claim would help to accelerate the building of public housing.
The One Cork group said the Government should move away from relying on the private sector to provide housing as it had not succeeded in solving the accommodation crisis.
Instead, they say, a municipal authority should be set up as a stand-alone non-profit company which would pool existing architectural, finance and procurement expertise within local authorities.
Cork member Barry Murphy said the group had examined the cost of housing provision and it believed a municipal housing authority could deliver quality houses for approximately 15-20 per cent less than the private sector because it would not be seeking to make a profit on its houses.
The group is recommending Cork City Council and Cork County Council set up such a company together.
The new housing authority would be answerable to council management and would build houses on State-owned land which would be offered on long-term leases to tenants with the rents being used to pay back borrowings obtained from the European Investment Bank to build the houses.
He said that with approximately 15,000 on the social housing list in Cork, “urgent action needs to be taken” and with the county council having already zoned some 3,000 sites for public housing, work could quickly start to address the housing crisis in the county.
Mr Murphy said that in 2015, the city council spent €15 million on hotel accommodation and private landlord accommodation which was often of a poor standard whereas under the One Cork scheme, the new housing authority would own the assets and ensure they were of a good quality.
Already the county council had identified the possibility of establishing a subsidiary company “at arm’s length” which would allow it borrow money from the European Investment Bank to fund the provision of infrastructure without it being put on the State’s balance sheet.
However the One Cork project, prepared by members of the Cork Council of Trade Unions, involved going further than this with the new municipal housing authority borrowing money not just to fund infrastructure but to build the housing units necessary to meet the shortage, Mr Murphy said.
Stephen Kennedy of One Cork said the group had received a sympathetic hearing from Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and it was particularly opportune to kick the start the project now with interest rates so low that borrowing the necessary capital made economic sense.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions national co-ordinator for the One Project Fiona Dunne said the union was fully supportive of the Cork initiative and she expressed confidence trade unions in Galway would follow suit with a One Galway project to address its housing crisis and together with Cork serve as a blueprint nationally.