HOUSEBUILDERS yesterday withdrew from a scheme to sell affordable homes direct to the public following an escalating row with councils.
Developers are unhappy that councils are asking for too many homes on new developments to be handed over for social or affordable housing.
They also claim that trying to work with councils on affordable homes can take up to two years for a process that should take a maximum of eight weeks.
Now the housebuilders’ action means applicants for affordable or social housing will have to apply for homes through local authorities instead, worsening delays in getting them housed.
The row between the Irish Home Builders’ Association (IHBA) and councils centres on an agreement struck last year on so-called Part V affordable homes.
Under Part V of the Planning and Development Act of 2000, housebuilders have to set aside 20% of any new development for social or affordable homes.
Last November, the two sides came to a deal to speed up the process of handing over “part five” homes to people who qualified for such residences.
The housebuilders agreed to deal with the public directly to save council bureaucracy while local authorities agreed to fixed guidelines on how many homes from each development would be used for social or affordable housing.
But yesterday the IHBA withdrew from the agreement, saying local authorities had not been keeping their side of the bargain and had been asking for too many homes while taking too long to deal with reasonable requests.
IHBA chairman Jim Wood said: “Councils are simply ignoring this agreement and we spent the bones of a year coming to a deal with them and then they don’t stick to it.
“We’ve got no problem meeting our obligations but councils aren’t meeting theirs and the Department [of the Environment] isn’t getting tough about it.”
He singled out Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Waterford and Wicklow county councils as the most problematic local authorities.
But he said the three represented only the “tip of the iceberg”.
The agreement on how both sides can fulfil their legal obligations is not strictly binding on councils as it is only classed as guidance, although the IHBA wants the deal upgraded to a legal directive.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Environment Minister Dick Roche said the IHBA’s withdrawal from the scheme was regrettable.
But the department said: “Any move in this regard by the IHBA will not affect the fundamental obligations of individual builders and developers under part five, which are enshrined in law.
“The success of the part five process is resulting in the delivery of almost 2,200 social and affordable homes in 2006, an increase of some 60% on 2005.
“Further significant increases in delivery are expected in 2007.”