Council Briefs: Student Housing, Using ASBOs, and More

In the Liberties

If all of the current proposals for student accommodation within a kilometre around Cork Street in the Liberties go ahead, it would bring student numbers up to 8 percent of the population, councillors learnt last Wednesday.

The latest plans for the fast-changing neighbourhood, which are working their way through a slipstream in the planning process, concern the old Donnelly Centre on Cork Street.

Developer Cairns Homes plans to turn the site, which used to be a sausage-and-bacon factory, into a large student housing complex of 399 beds. It would also have a cluster of amenities such as a cafe, games room, study room, gym, yoga room, and bicycle storage, as well as other bits and bobs.

According to data drawn together by Cairns Homes for its planning application, there are currently 1,499 student bed spaces within 1 kilometre of the site, which equates to about 4 percent of the population.

There are another 1,780 bed spaces proposed or already permitted within that same bubble, which would bring the student bed spaces up to 8 percent of the population.

Councillors at a recent meeting of the council’s South Central Area Committee raised concerns about an over-concentration of student accommodation in this part of the city, and a lack of clarity around how to calculate how much is too much.

Then, towards the end of the discussion at City Hall, Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne also pointed out how the neighbourhood won’t get one of the bonuses that would come from other developments. Namely, extra social housing.

“A development like this denies us as a city council of Part V accommodation, which would normally come about in terms of residential accommodation,” he said.

Under the Part V provisions, developers have to set aside 10 percent of developments of more than 10 units to sell on to the state for social housing. But student housing doesn’t count towards that.

If it had done, then the council would have gotten 178 homes from the student-accommodation developments that are planned going forward – never mind the ones already built.

To put that figure in context, Dublin City Council bought up 56 homes to turn into social housing so far this year through the Part V process, according to council figures.)

“I do understand the logic that if you put student accommodation in, you may free up beds elsewhere,” said independent Councillor Paul Hand. “But I do still think it’s a bit of a shame that we’re not going to get residential accommodation.”

Using ASBOs

Crimes figures in the north inner city remained roughly the same in most categories in 2017 compared to 2016, said Garda Superintendent Sean Ward, in a presentation to the Central Area Joint Policing Committee (JPC)  on 11 December.

But the value of drug seizures more than doubled from €0.5 million in 2016 to €1.1 million in 2017. Recordings of aggravated burglaries and robberies of businesses also increased, he said.

Gardaí are also using more anti-social-behaviour orders (ASBOs) to tackle some forms of crime.

The chair of the JPC, Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam asked whether the ASBOs are working. Or do the same people keep re-offending and getting issued with a letter?

“It’s another string in the bow,” said Superintendent Ward. “People are given a behaviour order … in a lot of cases that is actually sufficient.” If the ASBO doesn’t deter the behaviour, Gardaí can then use the law to address the issue, he said.

Gardaí are engaging in community outreach in some parts of the north inner city by knocking on doors and asking people if they have any issues. They’re also running clinics in the community.

Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan says that locals are happy about this. “People are absolutely delighted that the guards are knocking the doors,” she said. “I think it’s a brilliant initiative.”

McAdam also welcomed the extension of that outreach programme.

Growth in Crack Cocaine

“In the north inner city and moving across the entire city we have a sustained prevalence of street crack cocaine,” says Mel MacGiobúin of the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol Task Force.

This is of concern as the substance is significantly more dangerous than cocaine, he says.

The Gardaí have noticed this in their drugs seizures too. Seizures of crack cocaine increased tenfold from 2016 to 2017 in the Central Area. In 2016, the amount seized was valued at €4,305 while in 2017, it was valued at €43,410

The Ana Liffey Drugs project is providing information and workshops on crack cocaine to try to reduce harm to those who use the drug.

Places to Recover

We need more social spaces for people in recovery, said Gerry McAleenan of the Recovery Academy Ireland in a presentation to the JPC.

It is important to create “recovery cafes”, meaning spaces for people who are recovering from addictions, where they can socialise and also work to help build up their CVs, he says.

“I remember being in Liverpool and they had a wall full of all the activities that people could do,” he said of a place he saw in the UK. There were options of fishing, art, the gym and recovery walks.

There are a lack of positive creative interventions here, says McAleenan, and “people are languishing in clinics”.

In Ireland, the response tends to focus on reacting to crisis, and many people with addictions do not have a care plan, he says. (A care plan is a way of assisting people to create goals for what they want to achieve and supporting them to achieve those goals.)

“You have to tell them what the recovery routes are,” he says.

Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan  wants the council to support the initiative, and wonders if it could make use of existing buildings to set up a “recovery café”, which would be staffed by people in recovery.

Independent Councillor Nial Ring pointed out that there are existing recovery networks in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous that can be contacted 24 hours a day.

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Laoise Neylon and Lois Kapila: Laoise Neylon is a regular contributor to Dublin Inquirer, and Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's managing editor and general-assignment reporter.

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