Minister for housing Eoghan Murphy cuts the ribbon at Conniberry Way council estate in Portlaoise on June 18.
The Laois builder who constructed the new high spec council estate Conniberry Way in Portlaoise, says that regulations are slowing efforts to provide social housing to people in need.
Michael Kelly of Thomas Kelly & Sons Ltd in Castletown, has said that a combination of higher spec requirements, and a government shift away from building large estates for social housing, makes it slower to produce homes for people on the housing waiting list, not just in Laois but across Ireland.
“They are keen not to recreate the problems of the past by building huge estates," he told the Leinster Express.
Laois County Council has not got enough land in Portlaoise to build another Conniberry Way at present.
"The biggest requirement for housing is in the large towns in Laois, and the council doesn't have land to build on,” he told the Leinster Express.
"In the past they could buy a big block of land, but government guidelines now want a mix of housing," Mr Kelly said.
That mix means the council must focus on smaller numbers of social houses built together, private derelict properties bought and converted into housing, Part V houses in private estates given for social houses, and housing owned by associations and rented out to council tenants.
Building a large council estate would however be quicker and cheaper to solve the housing shortage the builder said.
“We have the same set up cost for building 10 houses as for 40. It's a ten year gap since we last built social housing for Laois County Council, the 47 houses in Collier's Way. Laois county council is one of the better local authorities, with a proactive manager and housing officer,” Mr Kelly said.
The government building regulations have jumped since the building boom he explained.
The 33 Conniberry homes have an A energy rating with top quality heat recovery systems that will only cost an estimated €250 a year in heating bills.
“Where it was 60ml wall insulation, its gone up to 120 and 150ml now. The exterior walls in Conniberry are an extremely expensive acrylic render, they have natural slate roofs, triple glazed windows, it all makes things a bit more onerous to build,” he said.
No other council estate is under construction in Portlaoise, with the next project not to be ready for several years.
Laois County Council is carrying out compulsory purchases of the final houses in the derelict Hepburn Court estate on the Mountrath road. Once all are in ownership, the council will knock them and two halls bought beside it, to build more council homes on the land as well as the field behind it.