Eagle Valley Association Cork 0

#Right2Own - Give Us Back Our Right to Own Our Home in Sarsfield Heights, Wilton, Cork

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First Time Buyers | Tenants | Residents | Home Owners

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We are calling on the Government to reverse the purchase of Sarsfield Heights, Cork by Respond Housing Association and restore our right to buy and own a home in Sarsfield Heights under the planning permission that was granted for the development.

We believe that our public bodies are robbing people of the right to buy their own home in the new Sarsfield Heights housing estate in Wilton, Cork

We are calling for action from the government and our public representatives, specifically the Minister for Housing and the TD's of our Cork South-Central constituency, to restore our right to buy and own a house in Sarsfield Heights:

  1. Darragh O'Brien, TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government & Heritage
  2. Micheál Martin, TD, Taoiseach
  3. Michael McGrath, TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
  4. Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence
  5. Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, TD

Respond Housing Association, in partnership with Cork City Council, is to buy the entire new Sarsfield Heights estate in Wilton, Cork exclusively for social housing rental and displace private buyers, particularly first time buyers who can only avail of the "Help to Buy" and "First Home" schemes for new builds.

Because of this proposed sale, these houses will never be offered for sale for private purchase by first time buyers, affordable housing or downsizers - or even Respond's tenants themselves. Government Bodies are bypassing the planning permission for the Sarsfield Heights estate which was granted for 72 units and on the premise that 6 were specifically identified for social housing and the rest were to be available for private purchasers. This is in an area which has a majority rental population and pent up demand to buy homes.

Yes, there is a housing crisis for EVERYONE in our society. Sarsfield Heights was a development planned to help ALL Groups, not just Social Housing exclusively.The purchase of Sarsfield Heights is not "Housing for All" as promised by the Government where "Everyone in the State should have access to a home to purchase or rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard and in the right place, offering a high quality of life."

To be clear, our Member’s are not against Social Housing or the people who are our new neighbours in those houses. Many estates in the area, including ours, have social houses that are appropriately pepper potted throughout the estates, in line with the planning policies for mixed tenure and sustainable communities. Across our community of Renters, existing Social Housing Tenants and Owner Occupiers, this proposed sale for exclusively social housing is a major issue because of

  1. the locking out of first time buyers, private buyers, downsizers
  2. the concentration of social houses
  3. the lack of transparency and the failure of our planning system and public representatives.

Our Members want to see balance and integration across the four tenures in our community - affordable, social, private rental and private ownership.

Across our community, the purchase of Sarsfield Heights exclusively for Social Housing is a major issue:

1. For Renters: Many of us have been renting long term in the area and welcomed Sarsfield Heights as a rare opportunity to own a home and stay in our community where our families have grown up. We are the "Squeezed Middle" - the tax paying and hardworking people who are struggling to get deposits together to own a home and have security for our families. We are First Time Buyers and we need the "Help to Buy" scheme and the "First Home" Schemes which are only available for new build homes like Sarsfield Heights. As house prices increase, our savings goals for deposits are constantly shifting upwards and seem unreachable. We are in the "Rent Trap" and live in fear of when our landlord decides to sell and we lose our tenancy and have to move and try to find a new home in this mad market. We won't be eligible for social housing or emergency accommodation.

2. For Owner Occupiers: For the minority of us in the area that are fortunate to have homes with mortgages or that we own, we originally welcomed Sarsfield Heights as an opportunity to sustain our community. The area needs more owner occupiers. Over 70% of the houses in our area, not just in Eagle Valley but in the greater Sarsfield Road area, are rented. For a sustainable community, tenure does matter. You need a critical mass of people to have a financial and emotional stake in the area. More owner occupiers would redress the current imbalance by increasing people with a personal financial stake in the long term maintenance and development of the area. The tenancy structure for Sarsfield Heights means that its residents will never have the opportunity to own their homes and the rental population in the area is further increased. We want to see balance and integration across the four tenures in our community - affordable, social, private rental and private ownership.

3. For Social Housing Residents: Today, Local Authority tenants in social housing homes are scattered throughout the area and successfully part of a mixed tenure community. LA Tenants are happy that their homes are indistinguishable from owner occupiers so they suffer no social stigma as a result. Under rental arrangements for existing LA Social Housing tenants, there is not only security of tenure but a future opportunity to buy these homes from the Local Authority. Local Authority tenants have a long term interest in the success of our community and play full and active roles to support the neighbourhood. Under the rules for Approved Housing Bodies, Respond's tenant's will never have a right to buy their homes. The concentration of social housing in Sarsfield Heights will enable the very issues associated historically with council estates, the "ghetto" reputation and social stigma that undermines social housing.

There has been public outcry at private investors bulk buying new estates and the government took action. Although they are non-profit and do great work, Housing Associations are still an institutional or corporate entity. While their goal in social housing is altruistic, the actual effect of the sale of Sarsfield Heights to Respond Housing Association is equivalent to that of the investment funds buying up housing estates, displacing and locking out individual private home buyers, particularly first time buyers from a new build purchase, inflating house prices in the area, and indeed perversely creating and increasing the very “affordability” problems in the market that the Government claims to be solving with social housing.

The difference with Sarsfield Heights is that it is being done by our own Public Bodies, the institutions who are supposed to be acting in the public interest, to take a balanced approach for all interest groups, and to lead best practice in the planning system. Effectively, the bulk buying of Sarsfield Heights by Respond is a back door means for the Council to bypass the planning system to achieve its housing targets by enabling what will effectively be a council estate – a model that has been rejected under the governments long established mixed tenure policies.

The purchase of housing estates by Approved housing bodies like Respond is funded by the Government and ultimately our taxes. It is our Public Bodies who are effectively gazumping first time buyers and bypassing the planning system to meet the needs of one group for social housing.

We are ordinary people trying to get our voice heard and our rights protected in our democracy - renters, owners, local authority and tenant residents and small landlords

The Developers will finish building and move on

The Politicians will do their photo ops, tweet, and disappear.

But we are the ones left with the long term consequences of their actions.

We are the taxpayers who provide the finance for social housing.

We are the voters

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