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06 Dec 2021

No keys before Christmas with new Portlaoise social houses 'in limbo'

No keys before Christmas as new Portlaoise social houses 'in limbo'

Photgraph last summer of Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at the unfinished Clonrooske Abbey houses in Portlaoise.

A new estate of 32 spacious social homes in Portlaoise is "in limbo" with no guarantee they will be delivered to council tenants at all.

Most of the houses are almost finished and tenants on the council's housing list have been told they are chosen, with most of the houses meant to have been delivered by December.

However because of building delays, a legal contract is now out of date and the developer is fully entitled to back out and sell them on the private market for more money.

The contract is now "not worth the paper it's written on" according to Portlaoise councillors.

Phase I was meant to be ready last spring, later pushed on to September with Phase II in December and Phase III in June 2022. None are completed over the difficulty in getting construction workers.

The precarious situation for people who are promised the new houses at Clonrooske Abbey was outlined at the November meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District. 

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley and Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald say the house will "definitely not" be delivered to tenants before Christmas.

They recounted their "frank and honest" recent meeting with the Clúid housing agency, who signed the contract with the developer to take on the houses, to lease them to Laois County Council.

"It was a condition in the contract that six months from being done the keys would be handed over. If they weren't, the parties could walk away. It is out of the hands of Clúid. They have absolutely no idea when they will be ready," Cllr Dwane Stanley said.

However she reports that the developer gave a verbal assurance to Clúid that they would honour the agreement and the price set a year ago.

"I hope they will come but in the meantime the builder has brought in another contractor to start Phase III," she said.

Cllr Fitzgerald said it is a very worrying situation.

"These houses are very badly needed, people expected to be in by Christmas but the contract is up and both can walk away. They are waiting on the contractor to come back. I hope he has the good will to honour his agreement.

"My fear is the market is so good, with the price of houses and the shortage of houses, that's the fear. He doesn't have to honour this by law," she said. 

"We were told a contract was signed but now wasn't worth the paper it was written on. It was signed a year ago and look at how costs have gone up, but we are told the developer won't increase the price. I asked Clúid if they come back looking for more money will they be in a position to pay, and they said they would cross that bridge if they come to it," Cllr Dwane Stanley said.

Cllr Willie Aird wants the Director of Services for Housing to meet the parties privately.

"People are taken off the council's housing list for these houses. I had two people thanking me for a house but now they are left in limbo. Laois County Council is in the middle of this," he said. 

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