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Tuesday, 7th September 2021

Ignoring 5,000 home PANCR project during housing crisis must end

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Rooms with a view - tents are becoming a regular sight on Donor's Green. We doubt they're being erected by tourists. Photo: Andy Spearman.

€20 million would allow PANCR house-building to commence says City Status Group

Reactions to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien’s “Housing for All” plan differ wildly but the Drogheda City Status Group says that the scandal of Governments ignoring Drogheda‘s  “shovel ready” 5,000 home PANCR project must end.

In a statement issued to Drogheda Life the group points out that Louth Co. Council has already invested millions on the plan which was developed over a decade ago and planning permission is in place for over 5,000 much needed homes, schools and leisure facilities as well as a new Drogheda North railway station at a time when Ireland is experiencing its worst housing emergency.

The Group estimate that a sum of €20 million would enable a substantial stretch of the PANCR to be constructed which would enable builders to move on site and commence house-building, helping Drogheda’s objective to become a self-sustaining, green city and creating much needed local employment.

“We are seeing a second generation of locals making long commutes to the Dublin area to secure work. They need local jobs and affordable homes, in their own communities” Anna continued.

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Anna described the failure of the Government to fund the Port Access Northern Cross Route (PANCR) as “a national scandal” in the middle of the country’s worst housing crisis.

Darragh O’Brien, the Fianna Fáil Minister for Housing, has said on several occasions that he is all in favour of the Port Access Northern Cross Route (PANCR).

In May 2019, when he was his party’s spokesperson on Housing and Local Government, he stood outside the entrance to Drogheda Port at Tom Roe’s Point and expressed his full support for the project. He promised that, if he became minister, he would do all in his power to get it over the line

It was music to the ears of local Fianna Fáil candidates in the 2020 general election but by the time he became Minister, O’Brien’s support seemed to have waned and when it came to divvying out the money, he knocked back the application from Louth County Council on a technicality.

This caused widespread disappointment locally, nowhere more so than in County Hall. After all, the Council had worked for years on the plan and invested millions in it. To see their efforts failing for a third time must have been frustrating in the extreme.

O’Brien was making some much bigger promises last week with his “Housing for All” plan which, he says, will provide 300,000 new homes by the year 2030. It’s a big promise but it’s difficult to see where he’s going to get the builders, let alone the finance.

Something for everyone

Fianna Fail’s senior elected representative in Louth, Senator Erin Senator McGreehan, said there was something for everyone in the plan.

“We all know fixing the current housing crisis is complex" she said, but what the Government have announced today sets us on a path to achieving the supply we need to cater for all our people. I know that individuals and families across Co. Louth have been eagerly awaiting this plan and they will not be disappointed – there really is something in this plan for everyone.”

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster had a different take on the plan, however. “This is more of the same failed Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing policy which got us into this mess in the first place,” she said, adding that it will come as “a major disappointment” to the thousands of people who are struggling to rent or buy.

Nothing in it for renters 

“I don’t think there’s a developer in the country who wouldn’t be happy with this plan. I see nothing in it for renters which is a major disappointment. Sinn Féin would ban rent increases for three years and provide a refundable tax credit to the value of one month’s rent for every renter. 

“If the Minister for Housing was serious about addressing the housing crisis he would have addressed the Northern Cross Route which is central to the housing plan for Drogheda. Not funding the Northern Cross Route is putting everything else in jeopardy. 

The Labour party’s Housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan described the plan as being “heavy on aspiration but lacking in ambition”.

Strong reliance on the private sector

“What people will really care about is the delivery of secure and affordable new homes, but once again there is a strong reliance on the private sector through more subsidies and schemes” she said.

“I am very concerned at the reliance on incentivising investors in the private sector focused especially in the build to rent sector which will not deliver sustainable communities or secure housing” she said.

“There must be a strong vacant property tax delivered in the Budget that will actually bring former homes and empty apartments back into use” she added. “Institutional investors can't be allowed leave properties vacant.” 

Local Labour TD Ged Nash was on annual leave when Drogheda sought a comment but his office said that the plan lacks ambition on the State led delivery of social and affordable housing and is over-reliant on private developers.

“We welcome that the Minister has taken on board Labour’s recent proposals the Kenny report, this will help cut the price of land and ultimately housing” they said.

“However, the Government’s proposed “shared equity” scheme is another boon to developers which will only inflate house prices, especially in areas like Drogheda which has seen the highest rises in the country, with average prices rising 13.6% this quarter to €250,000.

Fergus O’Dowd said that his focus right now is to try and get the PANCR project at least partly funded either through the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and/or getting the project established and part of the national development plan going forward.

He said he will be raising the details of Housing for All with Minister O’Brien at the scheduled meeting on the 16/17th of September and to see if there is any way the new plan will supplement or assist with PANCR. 

This article was written by Andy Spearman

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