DELIVERY of housing in Cork county could be rapidly accelerated after the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and Cork County Council reached agreement to establish a new company to finance infrastructure for housing projects.
ISIF and County Hall are set to support delivery of new homes through a “design-build-finance” model by taking a 50/50 share with €1.5m seed capital invested by both parties over 10 years. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country.
The venture will focus on providing infrastructure such as water and wastewater, roads serving new developments, footpaths and cycle paths and public lighting in advance of large-scale developments.
The scheme would focus on Cork on a pilot basis but could be extended to other cities and large towns across the country.
County Chief executive Tim Lucey said the new company could be trading in first quarter of 2019 and a competitive process to seek a chief executive is already underway but the company would be completely independent of County Hall.
He stated the scheme could potentially “plug a gap” for large-scale housing developments.
However, while the initiative has been broadly welcomed, councillors have raised concerns about the makeup of the joint venture’s board and management structure.
Councillor Melissa Mullane (SF) described the announcement as “significant” and would be an “arms-length” building company that would be off the Council’s balance sheet but stressed it must include social housing.
“This isn’t public housing, this is the private sector,” she added.
“There are pros and cons. It can’t say as a Cork county project. It has had to be statewide.” Alan Coleman (IND) said there is an “obvious gap” in the market for the venture.
“The support in terms of State provided infrastructure is not there. It’s Cork County Council stepping up to fill the gap. It's a fantastic initiative. Not only are we zoning land but providing a mechanism for developers in the private sector,” he added.
Joe Carroll (FF) described the announcement as a “landmark decision”, while Seamus McGrath (FF) said the scheme would need a healthy mix of social and affordable housing.
ISIF is managed and controlled by the National Treasury Management Agency.