On the Ashe Road, Mullingar, there are 18 houses under construction.

Housing crisis: more building required

Damien Maher

As the housing crisis escalates, a pertinent question must surely be why are more homes not being built by the local authority.

There is no confirmation as to how many homes will be built by Westmeath County Council this year, but among those currently under construction are 97 houses on the Ballymahon Road, Mullingar.

A further 16 homes are being built at Springfield, Mullingar, while there are 18 homes under construction on the Ashe Road, Mullingar.

There are also other building projects in the pipeline that will help meet the growing demand. D’Alton Park, Mullingar will be home to 12 new houses this year, while 21 new homes will be built in the O’Growney Drive area (near Tesco shopping centre).

A further 16 homes are to be constructed at Ennell Court, Mullingar (off Patrick Street).

Westmeath County Council are also beginning the process of acquiring houses from landlords, according to Cllr Mick Dollard, who wants to see the process expedited.

“I discussed this with the Minister for Housing (Local Government and Heritage of Ireland), Darragh O’Brien during a visit to Mullingar, but the problem is the council are very slow to take up offers when they become available.

"The process of dealing with auctioneers and landlords takes much too long and we need to change, or challenge, that bureaucracy if we are to make real progress in this area,” he said.

“Building more houses is crucial to tackling the problem and we need to move past all the red tape that’s slowing down the process.”

Cllr Dollard also pointed to the dragged-out process of dealing with all the voids in housing (in other words, where a property is lying idle for a period of time).

In that scenario, the council needs to move faster and provide homeless families with the basic roof over their heads, he suggests. Renovations, where necessary, could then take place.

A lot of housing estates have been allowed to become commercial properties as opposed to residential over the years and this is also a factor in the dearth of social houses.

“If you take St John’s Terrace in Blackhall, Mullingar, for example, not one of those is residential now. They are all commercial. Not far away, at the back of Blackhall car park, there were eight or nine houses demolished and none of those have been replaced,” he said.