How We Build Homes Is as Important as What We Build

Alison Gilliland

Alison Gilililand is a Labour Party councillor on Dublin City Council, representing the Beaumont/Donaghmede Ward in Dublin North Central. She is also a member of Dublin City Council's Housing Strategic Planning Committee.


Much talk has centred on housing standards recently, and quite rightly – we need thousands of quality homes right across Dublin, indeed in all of our urban centres.

While there are many small developments in train, there are three major parcels of Dublin City Council land under development consideration. These parcels – one in Cherry Orchard and two in Coolock – have the potential to provide more than 1,300 homes. How these lands are developed is as important as the type of housing units we put on them.

We are all too familiar with the criticism that housing supply, and particularly social housing, has been driven by private developers. Developers acquired land, contracted building companies and then sold the houses off for as high a price as possible.

Many of us bought into this and are living with the consequences, not only from a negative-equity perspective, but from the perspective of poor amenities – particularly a lack of green open spaces for our children to play on – high management fees and estates still waiting to be taken in charge by our local authorities.

Only a small percentage of units was obliged to the local authorities, resulting in the disaster of the limited social housing supply that we are now trying to grapple with and rectify.

This time around we have the opportunity to learn from the past and do things differently. Developers are not the only option in town when it comes to building houses, particularly on local-authority-owned land.

Not-for-profit housing organisations take a different approach to housing development and return – a long-term, here-to-stay approach. Not-for-profit housing organisations see the bigger picture; they don’t go in for a quick turnaround but rather take a planned return on their investment through a mix of social housing rents, long-term secure private rental and sales to owner-occupiers.

Working closely with not-for-profit housing organisations, local authorities can take advantage of their approach: housing types suitable for mixed-tenure housing needs can willingly be built; infrastructure and the key amenities needed to create and support long-term sustainable communities can be integrated into the overall plan and built as part of the process.

Not-for-profit housing organisations also manage the developments once built, highlighting their long-term commitment to the community.

This approach is potentially disruptive. Long-term below-market rents and more-appropriate profit margins on housing sales could impact on rising rents and house prices and introduce some moral regulation to the sector.

This, could have a knock-on impact on developers and landlords and their potential profit margins. Dublin renters and buyers, however, would be less concerned about affordability and possible homelessness.

Dare we move beyond the norm to date and demand an approach that will provide maximum housing return to our local authorities and to the citizens of Dublin? If there is a will, there is a way!

Author:

Alison Gilliland: Alison Gilililand is a Labour Party councillor on Dublin City Council, representing the Beaumont/Donaghmede Ward in Dublin North Central. She is also a member of Dublin City Council's Housing Strategic Planning Committee.

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