I was delighted to formally turn the sod on a number of projects in Westmeath, including 31 new units in phase 3 of the Ennell Court Development in the heart of Mullingar as well as 4 units in Bishopsgate Street, 12 units in Bun Daire, Kinnegad and 12 Units in Rahinine, Rochfortbridge. There is further development within Mullingar town also as well as in Moate and Athlone at present.
The Department has committed €8.04 million to deliver Phase of 3 of Ennell Court in partnership with Coolsivna and the design team being led by Westmeath County Council with assistance from GDCL Engineers, Tom McNamara & Partners QS, and JAK Mechanical & Electrical Engineers.
This is part of the phased redevelopment of Ennel Court (this is Phase 3), and will comprise of 2 sets of unit delivery – 12 units expected to be completed March 2022, with the remaining 19 units expected to be delivered in June 2022. All houses are designed to nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB) standards and use the latest Air-to-Water heating technology. Each home includes a wet-room at ground floor level suitable for assisted showering.
As Minister with direct responsibility for Housing for Older People and People with a Disability, it was important for me that nine of the homes are specifically designed to suit the needs of older persons or persons with disabilities. We must future-proof our housing stock as the population ages and we need a different mix of housing to ensure inclusivity. The finish on these houses will be gold standard and they will be home to local families for years to come.
Furthermore, in Bishopsgate Street, the disused carpark has been transformed to include 4 units, two houses and two apartments. I was delighted to support this development as we must bring disused land within the town back into use, rejuvenating our town centre in line with Government policy. Bishopsgate Street is near all local amenities and the development brings new energy to the town centre and new residents are due to move in by June of this year.
In Kinnegad, 12 further units have been developed in Bun Daire near the town centre with eight families due to move in April and four more by the end of June. Tuath Housing has developed 12 units in Rahanine in Rochfortbridge, and it was great to meet residents who have just moved in and are delighted to receive their forever home.
Occasions such as this provide me with the opportunity to see the great work being carried out locally in relation to the important area of housing. The Department is committing record sums and this needs to translate to families in secure accommodation on the ground. All of these homes we have seen today will cater for the different housing demands, in Mullingar and surrounding areas and will, without doubt, be a very welcome addition to the social housing stock.
It should also be remembered that housing developments are about more than just building houses. They are about building thriving, sustainable communities. These are places where people will want to live and work, watch their children grow, learn and play and all in a safe and secure environment.
This Government understands the urgency around the need for the construction of new social housing, to provide good quality housing into the future. There are challenges, but progress is being made. There is huge emphasis on housing at present right across Government and we are spending a record €3.3 billion this year. This is evident in Westmeath, where we have a number of sites active now in the town, in Rochfortbridge, in Kinnegad, in Moate and in Athlone. After delays due to the pandemic, all sites are back up and running and progress is being made to deliver good quality housing in the places we need it most. Since 2016, the number of households on waiting lists in Westmeath has decreased by 47%, falling from 1,926 in 2016 to 998 in 2020. This is still unacceptably high, but house by house, more and more people are coming off the social list and into secure accommodation.
A good indicator on the progress being made nationally on the construction of social housing is in the “Social Housing Construction Status Reports” that is published on a quarterly basis. The most recent publication to the end of Q1 2021, reflects an increase in the scale of the social housing build programme, with over 2,400 schemes (or phases of schemes) in place, delivering over 34,000 new social housing homes. Of this total, nearly 17,000 new homes have already been delivered, while 9,000 additional new homes were under construction.
I know projects like those in Westmeath are important in further growing construction activity all across the country. In this regard, I wish to acknowledge Chief Executive Pat Gallager and Mark Keaveney, Director of Service and the team in the Housing Section of Westmeath County Council, for bringing forward these schemes.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge and commend all those involved in the advancement of the social housing agenda in Westmeath and wish all the families and individuals the very best for the future in their new homes.