Government pays over E14m for Kildare land loans

THE State has forked out over E14 million for two Kildare local authority sites, which were originally bought for housing during the boom, but plummeted in value due to the downturn.

THE State has forked out over E14 million for two Kildare local authority sites, which were originally bought for housing during the boom, but plummeted in value due to the downturn.

There are also six further Kildare applications on lands with outstanding debts before the Department of Environment totalling over E10 million. These lands were earmarked for housing developments including social and affordable schemes, which have had to be shelved. Many of the sites were bought during the Celtic Tiger era but their value has since nose-dived.

Under the Land Agrigation Scheme, the state can buy back the value of the loan from the local authority, as calculated on June 30 2010. The department has stressed there is no loss to the exchequer as the loans would have had to be repaid anyway.

Effectively the state takes over the loan and the burden is lifted from the local authority, so Kildare County Council and Naas Town Council won’t have to make any further repayments on the approved applications. The funding comes from the Department of the Environment. The Housing and Sustainable Communities agency will be responsible for the management of lands transferred under the scheme. So far the government has handed over E67m for land loans nationwide.

Naas Town Council has been given the green light to transfer 4.82 hectares at Devoy Barracks, which was valued at E10.2 million. A site at Craddockstown has also been taken over at a loan value of E4.75 million.

Sites which are still awaiting approval include an 8.49 hectare site at Butterstream, Clane which has a loan value of E3.5 million as well as a 2.67 hectare plot at Collaghknock, Kildare town, which has been tagged at E1.9 million. A second land parcel at Collaghknock is also on the list valued at E1.1 million. The remaining applications include a four hectare site at Brallistown, Kildare - E1.8 million; a 4.16 hectare site at Nurney - E811,311; and a four hectare site at Bonaghmore, Rathangan - E1.2 million.

Kildare County Council’s Senior Executive Officer and Housing Officer, George Perry explained that any plans the council had for these sites have been put on hold in the short term. He said these applications were the only sites with outstanding debts owned by the council. He stressed that there was no indication as to when the department would make a decision on the outstanding applications.

There are approximately 6,500 people on the housing list in Kildare at present. Due to the lack of new housing being built by the council, other solutions are being looked at to tackle the problem.

“We are actively pursuing this. We would hope to house those people through the provision of the RAS scheme and public leasing, We are in contact with developers with regards to leasing social units ” explained Mr Perry. However, with many developers in trouble, council officials are now dealing with receivers and NAMA in many cases. Under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide housing for people with a long-term housing need for an agreed term. The local authority pays the rent directly to the landlord.

Although over 500 homes are lying vacant in 88 ghost estates in Kildare, according to last October’s National Housing Development Survey commissioned by the Department of Environment, many of them are not yet finished and unavailable for the scheme.