Local authority land utilisation and activation is, in the first instance, a matter for the local authority and its elected members including the development of its land for the delivery of affordable housing.
In line with the commitments in Rebuilding Ireland to support the delivery of discounted homes to buy or rent, this Government has allocated €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), from 2019 to 2021, to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of some 6,200 more affordable homes on local authority lands. This funding is being made available in areas where local authorities have demonstrated a requirement for affordable housing and the viability to deliver such housing from their sites.
The first call for proposals under the SSF in June 2018 was specifically aimed at providing funding opportunities to 11 local authorities, where it was identified that the greatest affordability pressures existed. Approval in principle was issued in December 2018 for funding for 10 infrastructure projects in Dublin and Cork with €43 million funding, which will support the delivery of 1,400 affordable homes. Details of these projects can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-10-local-authority-sites-affordable-housing-serviced-sites-fund/.
Following the first call under the SSF, and in order to target affordable interventions, local authorities were asked to complete financial/economic assessments of each of their sites to assess whether the provision of affordable homes was economically viable. Local authorities were also asked to assess the broader housing affordability within their area.
A second call for proposals under the SSF issued to 19 local authorities (including Westmeath County Council) in April 2019 and was based on the aforementioned economic assessments. 31 submissions were received from 15 local authorities. Westmeath County Council elected not to make a submission under this SSF call. Approval in Principle was issued in August 2019 for the funding of 25 infrastructure projects in 13 local authorities across 9 counties with €84 million funding. This will support the delivery of 1,770 affordable homes. Details of these projects can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/.
The primary focus of the SSF scheme is to support the provision of affordable homes on lands in local authority ownership. It is my intention to issue a further SSF all for Proposals in 2020 and Westmeath County Council will have the opportunity at that stage to submit an application, which would be assessed against the relevant criteria along with any other applications received.
My Department is currently not in receipt of any funding application in respect of a social or affordable housing development project on the Orchard, Ballymahon Road. It is my understanding, however, that my Department has recently funded the purchase of two homes by Westmeath County Council for social housing in the Orchard area.
Those wishing to purchase new homes off the open market may also qualify for other Government supports such as the ‘Help to Buy Scheme’ or the ‘Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan’.