Nuns urged to hand over site for so­cial hous­ing

Wexford People - - NEWS - By MARIA PEP­PER

THE St. John of God con­gre­ga­tion in Wex­ford has been urged to re­con­sider sell­ing land that it owns at a prime lo­ca­tion in Fer­ry­bank on the com­mer­cial mar­ket and to make it avail­able for badly-needed so­cial hous­ing in­stead.

Labour Party Lo­cal Area Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joe Ryan and the Wex­ford Cam­paign for So­cial Hous­ing spokesper­son Gary O’ Brien have both called on the Wex­ford Sis­ters not to sell the ex­ten­sive res­i­den­tial por­tion of the land for pri­vate de­vel­op­ment

Mr. Ryan said the Sis­ters should put the in­ter­est of fam­i­lies on the hous­ing list ahead of the mar­ket place while Mr. O’ Brien sug­gested they ‘do the hon­or­able thing’ and do­nate it as a gift to the peo­ple of Wex­ford.

The St. John of God or­der has placed the 32 acres of land in its own­er­ship be­side Ely Hos­pi­tal on the mar­ket at a guide price of €2.2 mil­lion. The site which in­cludes 18.1 acres that is zoned res­i­den­tial, with the re­main­der in com­mer­i­cal and green space zon­ing, is be­ing sold by pri­vate treaty through the of­fices of Ke­hoe and Associates Auc­tion­eers.

Re­act­ing to news of the planned sale, the for­mer Mayor of Wex­ford Joe Ryan asked the con­gre­ga­tion to re­con­sider auc­tion­ing the land.

He said he recog­nised that all re­li­gious or­ders have age­ing mem­bers and have a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide for their care and as a con­se­quence they are obliged to look at the mar­ket value when dis­pos­ing of as­sets.

But the pri­vate hous­ing mar­ket is well catered for and what is needed in Wex­ford is af­ford­able so­cial hous­ing, he said.

Mr. Ryan said he has no is­sue with the sec­tions of land zoned for com­mer­cial use be­ing sold for pri­vate de­vel­op­ment but in his view, the St. John of God or­der should sit down with the lo­cal author­ity to ne­go­ti­ate the sale of the 18 acres which are zoned for hous­ing.

Cit­ing a prece­dent, he said that 20 years ago the CBS or­der sold land di­rectly to the coun­cil to build hous­ing in Joseph Street.

‘Hous­ing lists in Wex­ford are now the long­est they have ever been. There is a need for the state to di­rectly in­ter­vene and to build so­cial and af­ford­able houses thor­ough county coun­cils. I am call­ing on the St John of God con­gre­ga­tion to put the in­ter­ests of those who need homes ahead of the mar­ket place and en­sure that this land can be sold to pro­vide so­cial hous­ing. It’s time for a change of heart’, he said.

To sup­port his ar­gu­ment, he quoted from an ad­dress by Bishop Kevin Do­ran at the launch of ‘A Room at the Inn’, a pastoral let­ter is­sued last week by the Catholic hi­er­ar­chy.

Bishop Do­ran said hous­ing should be recog­nised as a hu­man right. He said it should be af­ford­able and the pro­vi­sion of hous­ing should not be left solely to the mar­ket.

‘The move by the or­der con­tra­dicts Bishop Do­ran who said that caps should be placed on the price of pri­vate land and that the church has a role to play in pro­vid­ing homes’, said Mr. Ryan.

Gary O’Brien of the Wex­ford branch of the na­tional Cam­paign for Pub­lic Hous­ing said the sale of the Fer­ry­bank land rep­re­sented a po­ten­tial gold­mine for pri­vate de­vel­op­ers due to its lo­ca­tion and nearby ameni­ties.

‘The cur­rent en­gi­neer­ing hous­ing short­age has driven prop­erty prices up to 2006 lev­els.There­fore, if pri­vate hous­ing units are built on this land, they will be far be­yond the reach of low-in­come fam­i­lies’, said Mr. O’Brien who is also a mem­ber of Wex­ford Peo­ple Help­ing Peo­ple.

‘The St. John of God Sis­ters are a self-de­scribed char­i­ta­ble or­der. The cam­paign group is call­ing on the Or­der to gift the land to the State on the pro­viso that it is used for 100% mixed-in­come uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble pub­lic hous­ing’.

Mr. O’Brien dif­fer­en­ti­ated be­tween pub­lic hous­ing and so­cial hous­ing and said the lat­ter had hemmed low-in­come fam­i­lies into ghetto es­tates for decades, thereby cre­at­ing anti-so­cial prob­lems.

‘Un­der the model of pub­lic hous­ing, by pro­vid­ing hous­ing to any­one that wants it, with rent capped at around 20-30% of in­come, we would put and end to so­cial seg­re­ga­tion. Lower and mid­dle in­come pub­lic hous­ing can de­liver di­verse com­mu­ni­ties where a doctor lives next to a nurse, the post­man lives next door to the hair­dresser and a fac­tory work­ers lives be­side a solic­i­tor.’

‘Fer­ry­bank is an open gate to the pros­per­ity of many in­hab­i­tants in Wex­ford. The ameni­ties are there within a 10-minute walk into the town cen­tre. Such af­ford­abil­ity can cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for our chil­dren in which their fu­ture is se­cured through the pro­vi­sion of a sta­ble, per­ma­nent home. De­vel­op­ing this land into pub­lic hous­ing would also cre­ate hun­dreds of long term con­struc­tion jobs’, he said.

‘We call on the St. Jon of God Or­der to do the hon­or­able and sen­si­ble thing in a time of suf­fer­ing for peo­ple and to gift the land to the peo­ple of Wex­ford’, said Mr. O’ Brien, adding that pro­vid­ing pub­lic hous­ing on the site has the po­ten­tial to ‘make a huge dent in the hous­ing short­age in Wex­ford town’.

“I call on the St John of God con­gre­ga­tion to put the in­ter­ests of those who need homes ahead of the mar­ket place”

Last week’s Wex­ford Peo­ple front page story.

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