Residents claim their properties will be devalued by social housing

Lorro Gate in Athenry

Residents of a housing estate in Athenry claim up to €2 million will be wiped off the value of their homes if Galway County Council proceeds with a plan to purchase units there.

The local authority is in the process of buying 14 houses in Lorro Gate, Prospect to be used as social housing. It is understood agreement to purchase has been reached and contracts have been exchanged.

The County Council said it is buying the houses to meet its social housing targets, and to clear some of the backlog of people on the local social housing waiting list.

However, some of the existing residents said that the Council’s plans have the potential to devalue their homes significantly. One estimate suggests a home that was purchased in Lorro Gate for €235,000 could be worth €150,000 if the Council’s plans proceed.

Phase one of the estate has 41 homes, and four of them were earmarked for social and affordable housing. If the County Council succeeds in purchasing 14 more units, it would mean 44% of the homes in the private estate would be social housing.

If that happens, residents said they have an initial estimate indicating a potential loss in value of €1.5m to €2m to the private houses in the estate.

“As well as the monetary impact, we are also hugely concerned about the high probability of anti-social behaviour in the estate,” said Paul Lenihan, director of Lorro Gate Management Company.

Residents have contacted the County Council with their concerns, and they have also engaged solicitors with a view to taking a class action.

There was a meeting between residents and local representatives in Athenry on Good Friday, during which locals aired their concerns again.

Around 20 residents met for over an hour with County Councillors Peter Feeney (FG) and Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) and Galway East TD, Anne Rabbitte (FF) at the community centre.

There are plans to build a further 28 homes in phase two of the estate. Cllr Peter Feeney told last week’s meeting with residents that there are “no plans” by the County Council to purchase any of those units for social housing.

The meeting heard that the purchase of property was a function of the Council management executive, and was not a reserve function of Councillors.

In an email to the estate management company, County Council acting director of housing, Michael Owens, said it in responding to the significant housing need that exists, it is guided by Government policy ‘Rebuilding Ireland – An Action Plan for Housing & Homelessness’.

“There are currently a range of measures available to the Council to respond to housing need and to meet the housing targets set for the County of Galway both for the current year and out to 2021.

“These measures including the provision of high quality homes by means of construction, acquisition, leasing and the return of vacant properties. In all such instances the Council’s approach is guided by our commitment to developing and supporting sustainable communities by providing high quality homes with an appropriate social and tenure mix in full compliance with all relevant national policy and legislative requirements,” said Mr Owens.