Laois landowners may be forced to sell land for council housing

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Conniberry Way in Portlaoise during construction.

Conniberry Way in Portlaoise during construction.

Laois County Council has failed after repeated attempts to buy land zoned for housing but left idle, and is now left with little option but to force people to sell them land.

The local authority’s housing office has tried without success to buy land in the past year but Laois landowners are not taking the bite.

Laois County Council’s Housing Officer Michael Rainey confirmed their lack of success at the June council meeting.
"We have struggled all year looking for land, or turnkeys. It's proving very difficult,” he said.

The council is now considering doing compulsory purchase orders on land.
“I'm actively engaged with a landowner to acquire land and am considering a compulsory purchase order," he said.

Portlaoise is top of the list for applicants for social houses in Laois. The last council housing estate that opened there was the 33 house estate Conniberry Way in 2018. That was the first council built estate in over a decade.

It takes several years from buying the land to opening houses.
“If we want houses in 2022 we need to be acquiring land now,” Mr Rainey said at the meeting.

Mr Rainey said afterwards that there is a need to develop social houses in the town.
“The Council has identified a strategic need to acquire land suitable for social housing development in 2022 and beyond. The Council has actively engaged with all the relevant estate agents in this regard but to date this has not led to any land acquisition,” he said.

Mr Rainey said they have advertised many times to no avail.
“The Council has advertised on numerous occasions over recent years seeking expressions of interest from landowners,” he said.

“The Council would seek to acquire land at the current market value,” the Housing Officer added.

Laois County Council's most recent drive to buy land was in June when it advertised to seek expressions of interest from any landowner to sell land with residential zoning in Laois.
They are also asking to buy new one, two and three bedroom houses for social housing through turnkey developments in Laois.  The forms are on the council’s website, to be sent back by July 9.

There are 14 new houses listed to be constructed in Portlaoise under the Rebuilding Ireland Scheme, across three sites. That compares to 172 in the rest of the county.

However other social houses and apartments are planned in Portlaoise, but mostly on derelict sites, funded through the Urban Regeneration Scheme. Funding from that scheme will produce 214 homes on Portlaoise sites including the old CBS, convent, county hotel and derelict Hepburn Court estate.