Cost rental supply is key in Limerick’s ‘housing emergency’

Circle VHA CEO John Hannigan.

THE CEO of a new concept in rental housing in Limerick has warned that the housing issue is “way past crisis, it’s become an emergency”.

That’s the view of John Hannigan, CEO of approved housing body Circle VHA, chairman of the Housing Alliance, and board member of the Irish Council for Social Housing, who told the Limerick Post “we don’t have a housing crisis – it’s gone way past that. We have a housing emergency.”

A newly-finished housing scheme is Castletroy, where tenants will pay around one-third less than the average commercial rent, is a vital component in solving the housing shortage and more such homes should be built, Mr Hannigan believes.

In direct response to the escalating demand for rental housing, Circle are strategically prioritising cost rental (CREL) properties, occupying 50 per cent of the 113 newly finished homes in the Mill development in Castletroy on that basis.

A lottery system is to open for approved applicants with a maximum gross household income figure of €93,500.

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The Castletroy houses are among just 1,600 homes built under the cost rental scheme since it was begun 16 months ago.

Half of the houses built will go to people who qualify on the local authority housing list and the rest will go to people with an income who don’t qualify for housing help “but who can’t afford market rents or market mortgages, even if they could find available homes,” said John.

Making their housing schemes multi-tenanted is an important part of building communities rather than just houses for Circle.

“We do things a bit differently. We offer tenants long-term, stable, secure tenancies. We particularly want to help people from an area stay in that area, which they couldn’t otherwise afford,” said John.

The cost of the rental is calculated by the not-for-profit housing agency on a number of factors, one being the cost of the build, the debt incurred, and the average rent in the area where homes are being built.

“Rents in Limerick in the private sector have risen around 16 per cent in the last 12 to 16 months,” John said. “The rental cost of one of the three-bed semi-detached houses in Castletroy will be €1,200 a month. That’s at least €400 cheaper than the market rate. And these are fabulous houses, painted and floored with a kitchen stocked with white goods.”

Tenants will have the option of long-term leases but can also opt to move to buying privately, with the reduced rent giving tenants hope of getting a deposit together.

The only criteria for eligibility for individuals applying to rent in the scheme is that they earn less than €59,000 per year.

“The cut off point to apply for social housing is a salary of €34,000. People earning anything between that and the cut-off for cost-rental homes are going to have a real struggle to afford renting privately.”

The aim of the combined housing associations is to build a minimum of 1,000 cost-rental homes a year for the next five years.

The scheme in Castletroy will shortly be open for the approved  application lottery and it’s hoped that the new tenants will be in situ very shortly after that.

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