Right2Own Petition shows over 100 house buyers in the Sarsfield Road area, including over 90 First-Time Buyers, displaced by sale of Sarsfield Heights exclusively for Social Housing

12/2/2023 Right2Own petition (bit.ly/right2own)

With 327 signatories as of Sunday 12th February 2023, the Right2Own petition (bit.ly/right2own) is asking the Government to reverse the purchase of Sarsfield Heights, Cork by Respond Housing Association and restore their right to buy and own a home in Sarsfield Heights under the planning permission that was granted for the development. The original planning permission was for a mixed tenure development of private, affordable and 6 social housing units in conformance with government policy for sustainable communities.

Over 108 of the 327 signatories are would be house buyers from the Wilton area. 93 of these 108 would be individual purchasers have self identified as First Time Buyers.

The Right2Own Petition demonstrates that the purchase of Sarsfield Heights in its entirety for social housing by Respond is removing housing from the market that would otherwise have been available to the over 100 private purchasers in the locale, including the 93 first time buyers, who have so far signed the Right2Own petition. This is contrary to the Department of Housing’s Housing Guidelines in Circular 31/2019, “Arrangements for the Provision by local authorities of Social Housing through Turnkey Projects” from  the Dept. of Housing, Planning & Local Government (TurnkeyCircular_31_2019.pdf)

LAs (Local Authorities) should satisfy themselves that any turnkey acquisition by them, is not removing housing from the market that would otherwise be available to private purchasers, in particular to first-time buyers.”

(Page 1 of 4 Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, 4th October 2019 Circular: Housing 31/2019 “Arrangements for the Provision by local authorities of Social Housing through Turnkey Projects”)

The Department of Housing stated to RTE’s Prime Time programme on 8/12/2022 that “The funding for Housing Charities is designed so they do not compete with private buyers … its funding schemes for approved housing bodies enable supply that would not otherwise have been built, adding that the sector “does not compete with private purchasers but seeks to increase supply across the board” Why is the Department of Housing paying tax payers monies to enable Respond to purchase Sarsfield Heights when there are clear questions on conformance with the Department’s Housing Guidelines as well as questions on the Planning Permission that have not yet been answered?

There was no question that Sarsfield Heights would not have been built without funding from Respond. The developers, O’Brien & O’Flynn, stated to RTE’s Prime Time programme on 8/12/2022 that they “began building the estate in 2020 with its own resources and with a plan to sell it on an owner occupier basis. It was approached by Respond and a number of other parties and decided to sell the scheme to Respond to help expedite its completion.”

How did Cork City Council, who is providing funding and lease agreements to enable Respond to purchase Sarsfield Heights, ascertain that this purchase would not remove housing from the market for the over 100 local private purchaser signatories of this petition? In Cork City Council’s statement to RTE’s Prime Time programme on 8/12/2022, Cork City Council referred to a Sustainable Community Report that it had commissioned to determine the need for social housing in the area. However, it made no reference to how it had ascertained that the purchase of Sarsfield Heights for Social Housing would not displace private purchasers and first time buyers.

Petition signatories were asked to provide their Eircode to show their residence in the area around Sarsfield Heights and their interest as signatories e.g. first time buyer, private purchaser, private tenants, local authority tenants, owner residents, owner landlords etc. The petition is a local grass roots effort to publicise the Sarsfield Heights issue through street posters and flyers being dropped into the houses in the neighbourhood surrounding Sarsfield Heights.

Would be Private Purchasers, including First Time Buyers, represent over 1/3 of the petition signatories with another 1/3 being Home Owners (Resident Owners & Landlords) in the Wilton area. Another key signatory constituency of the signatories self identified as Private Tenants (36/11%). Indeed many tenants and would be house purchasers in the area are working for Cork University Hospital and desperate to secure housing.