IT WAS once the preserve of bankers and property developers, but Limerick’s most sought-after address - the North Circular Road - will soon be home to council tenants.
For the first time plummeting property prices have allowed Limerick City Council purchase a property in the plush area, where house prices were once over €1m.
But with many home-owners in negative equity and looking to off-load their investments, 24 properties on the North Circular Road are now on sale on the property website daft.ie.
They vary in price from €195,000 to €885,000 – well down since the Celtic Tiger years.
A council official said they have purchased in the region of 25 properties across the city this year, with dozens more likely to be bought within the confines of the €46m housing budget. Of that figure, €35m has been earmarked for Regeneration projects.
Two of the houses purchased within the last week are on the North Circular and South Circular Roads, after they were bought for in the region of €200,000.
Described as “substantial properties”, a council source said they are in “sparkling order.”
Independent city councillor Kathleen Leddin, who lives in the North Circular Road, said she would have no objection to the council buying a house in her area.
“If the houses are well-kept, and if we got nice, good tenants in I would have no objection. It’s sometimes better to have residents in than an empty house. No other residents in the area have approached me about this yet,” she said.
However, one council source said many city councillors have frequently objected in the past to council tenants moving in their own areas.
Other areas where houses have been bought recently, after lengthy negotiations, are in Caherdavin, Ballynanty, Janesboro, Norwood Park, and Lynwood Park.
Kieran Lehane, director of service at City Hall, said the number of people leaving regeneration areas is low at present and tenants moving into private estates are carefully selected, after a strict vetting process.
“We would be extremely sensitive to the area. If it’s mainly elderly people living in the area, we try to get an elderly person in and match it up. For every 10 that we look at, we might buy two to three houses,” he explained.
The council has a budget in the region of €200,000 to spend per house, and expects to purchase a total of 80 houses this year, most of which will come from the capital Regeneration budget.
Mayor of Limerick, Fine Gael councillor Jim Long, explained that the council’s policy is to only buy three to four properties in any one area and then impose a ‘buying moratorium’ on that area, and move on to another part of the city. The mayor said the council is “very selective and careful” in which houses and areas they buy, and not all are for people being relocated under the Regeneration programme.
He said one of the serious aspects of relocating council tenants is the “fear” existing residents feel when someone new is moved into their area.
But he said the council is often wrongly blamed for unruly residents to move into private residential areas.
Since 2005 a policy was adopted by the then minister that 20 per cent of housing stock should come from private areas to promote social inclusion.
The property website daft.ie lists 42 properties for sale on the South Circular Road, which vary in price from €148,000 to €685,000.
Last year City Hall purchased 192 housing units, under a capital budget of €40m, according to its 2010 draft plan.
Up to 50 per cent of these units were private houses in council estates in Moyross, St Mary’s Park and Southill, which were bought for demolition – not acquisitions for re-lettings.
The council’s regeneration project team, established three years ago, also saw that 141 houses were boarded up last year, 190 houses were demolished and 104 tenants were relocated.
The Limerick Regeneration project began to take shape last week when the first phase of construction began in Cliona Park in Moyross.
Over 70 construction jobs have been created with the construction of 33 homes, at a cost of €4.7m.