CITY HALL is on course to build 200 homes by the end of the year, 199 more than achieved in 2014.
A further 200 properties are to be added to the city’s housing stock through leasing, acquisitions and voids return.
It is a small dent in the problem but housing officials maintain that it is proof that things are moving in the right direction.
Housing is the number one social issue on a local and national basis. Stock shortages remain a pressing issue in every sector of the market in every county in the country, with rents spiralling as a result.
A lack of construction activity in the private market means that there is little change likely in the immediate future.
More than 3,700 people are on the waiting list for a social house in Cork city, with a further 1,800 supported through social housing supports such as HAP.
Brian Geaney, the head of housing at City Hall, said progress is being made, though it is starting from a very low point.
“In 2014, there was one social house built in the city. There will 200 built in the current year.
“Across the country, every local authority was coming from a decade of little or no activity.
“The council has a substantial target to achieve between 2017 and 2021 of 2,230 homes. Up to 68% of those will be provided through new builds.
“It is 200 this year and we will double that next year and double it again the year after. It is a substantial increase on what was being done.”
He continued: “You are into significant numbers there. The projects in the public domain already are more than 1,000 units. There are more projects that we hope to get funding approval for shortly both that have planning permission and that will go towards part 8.
“Some of those are significant and are apartment-type developments. People will see a significant level of construction happening and a significant number of completions in a short space of time.”
A recent report issued by the Department of Housing indicated that City Hall was falling far short of its Rebuilding Ireland targets in terms of construction. Just 50 of its targeted 361 new houses were finished by the end of the second quarter of the year, a figure that seemed at odds with the positive noises coming from City Hall.
However, Mr Geaney said it was simply a snapshot, with the remainder — and more — of the target within reach by the end of the year.
It is just part of the overall construction target, too, with dozens of schemes in various stages of planning throughout the city.
These include large schemes like Deanrock, Gerald Griffin Street and Thomas Davis Street, and also a host of smaller, bespoke developments, many of which aim to plug long-needed gaps in the city’s stock, such as catering to single people.
Mr Geaney said: “We have over 1,000 units that are either under construction or at the tender or planning stage. All of those will go to construction over the next number of months.
“I am absolutely satisfied that we are well on course to deliver our targets under Rebuilding Ireland.”
Despite that, the housing director said he can understand the frustration of the general public when it comes to housing. However, it is not as simple as flicking a switch, he added.
“There is a serious supply issue out there in all sectors — social housing, affordable housing, private housing, student housing - and there is frustration because of that. The construction of housing isn’t a pushbutton activity. It takes time in terms of design, planning, procurement and getting houses from a proposal to handing out the keys,” he said.
“The challenge that is often underestimated is the skills shortage that is there. It is a serious issue that is going to arise over the next number of months and year — will there be enough skilled labour there to construct these houses?
“We haven’t had an issue of it to-date but a number of developers in the city are bringing in labour from adjoining counties for projects. This is common in Dublin, but now we are seeing people coming from Kerry, Limerick and other adjoining counties to work for Cork contractors.”
Despite the challenges facing City Hall, there is currently more social housing under construction in the city than private housing.
While student developments have shot up in recent months, including projects near UCC and on South Main Street, there has been little in the way of private developments delivered to-date.
Mr Geaney said that this has to change; local authorities cannot bridge the gaps in the market on their own.
He said: “We have 15 sites where social housing is currently under construction, which is significant in terms of the wider city area. We now have more social housing under construction in the city than private housing.
“It is an interesting statistic; between social housing and student accommodation, they are the primary drivers in housing construction in the city and that has to be a concern for the city going forward.
“We would all like more private housing to be built. The more private housing that is built, the more houses that will be available for people to rent in the city which, in turn, could free up more social housing units.”