Detailed information on Clare County Council’s house acquisition strategy over the last two years has been released on foot of a motion from Fine Gael councillor Paul Murphy.
The Clarecastle councillor sought itemised lists of all dwellings purchased by the council in 2015 and 2016 as well as the cost of repairs and improvements prior to allocating these properties to social housing applicants. A detailed response from director of services Liam Conneally reveals that 93 dwellings were purchased from private individuals and developers across Clare at a total cost of €4,640,000.
Altogether the council spent €2,409,850 on 19 dwellings in the Shannon Municipal District at an average cost of €126,834. The most expensive single property was €212,334 spent on the purchase and repair of 26 Gleann na Smól, Shannon.
Since the property crash in 2008, several local politicians had asked the local authority to take advantage of exceptional value in Shannon Town’s property market to help tackle the housing crisis. Despite an upturn in the market, there is still value to be found. For example, for the €190,000 spent on Gleann na Smól, the council could have 46 Rossbracken for €80,000 and another house in Cronan Lawn for €95,000, thereby housing two families for the price of one and saving the taxpayer €15,000.
A total of €5,128,559 was spent on 45 dwellings in Ennis, an average of €113,967 per unit. The most expensive single property was 8 Dun na hInse costing €233,134 after repairs. In West Clare €1,980,159 was spent on 25 properties, an average cost of €104,894. The most expensive was 4 Ard Donagh, Ennistymon, costing €188,500. Only four units were acquired in East Clare at a total cost of €644,392, an average of €161,089 per property. The most expensive were two properties at 13 and 16 Ard na Deirge, Killaloe purchased for €399,000.
Cllr Paul Murphy commented that the council appears to be tackling the housing waiting list and he asked Liam Conneally, whether he is feels the council is getting value for money with its acquisitions strategy. Mr Conneally said he is satisfied that the council is getting value for money. He added, “The market is giving us good value for money at the moment”. He also pointed out that Clare County Council operates pricing guidelines set by the Dept of the Environment and said the majority of purchases are within those spending limits. He did add, “when we need to go above, we seek approval from the department but that happens in very few cases.”
Separately Cllr Pat McMahon raised the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin to ask whether the council was offered any properties by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) that are suitable for emergency accommodation. Mr Conneally replied that the local authority has purchased 77 properties from NAMA but none are suitable for emergency accommodation.
The director noted that some properties offered by NAMA were rejected as unsuitable for numerous reasons, primarily due to being located in areas of low social housing demand or for sustainable community reasons. However 34 former NAMA properties in Ennis are currently being completed for social housing, it is hoped these will be ready for allocation by autumn.
Cllr McMahon claimed that a number of homeless people have been sleeping rough in shop doorways and some were taken in by the Gardaí during bad weather. He described as “distasteful” claims that NAMA has sold distressed residential properties to vulture funds which could have been be offered to local authorities in order to deal sympathetically with people in mortgage distress and to tackle the housing crisis locally.