Divisions are emerging between Galway city councillors over whether or not to hand over 21.5 acres of land to the Government under the new Land Aggregation Scheme.
The new scheme could clear the council of debts it owes and provide extra money for works in the city. However some councillors are concerned the move will leave City Hall without enough land for social and affordable housing.
Under a scheme introduced by the Government to help local authorities to buy land, the Galway City Council purchased 21.5 acres, for a total of €26.7 million in the last three years. The land was bought with a view to developing it for social and affordable housing.
However it is costing the city council €9,000 a year to pay back for the loans taken to buy the lands and with the economic crash the lands are now worth far less that the council originally paid for them.
The problem is by no means unique to Galway as most, if not all, local authorities in the State are in a similar position. In response to the situation the Government has introduced the Land Aggregation Scheme.
This new scheme will see the Government take back such land from any local authority that wishes to participate. The Government will also take back the loans, thereby clearing the local authorities from any debt.
The issue is due for discussion at next Monday’s city council meeting but it could prove a controversial issue as there are already divided opinions on whether or not the council should avail of this new scheme.
Some councillors feel City Hall should avail of the scheme as it would free the council of paying the €9,000 a year and allow for that money to used for projects in Galway instead. Other councillors feel that City Hall should not surrender that amount of land, despite the debt, especially as it is earmarked for social and affordable housing and, officially, 3,440 are on the council’s housing waiting list.