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Property developers are usually expected to commit to sell 10 percent of the housing they build on large sites to local authorities for use as social housing.
But Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Sinn Féin Councillor Shane O’Brien said last week he was worried that a recent planning application for a site in Cherrywood didn’t provide for that – and that the phased nature of the applications means that the social housing would be built last.
The application for planning permission for 1,269 build-to-let homes on a site in Cherrywood, filed by the developer Hines in September last year, says that the legally required provision of 10 percent social housing – known as “Part V” – will be provided in apartment blocks B3 and F3 of the development.
But apartment block B3 isn’t part of the planning application, the planners’ report from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council notes. (A schedule for the site doesn’t provide for residential units in that block, either.)
The council has asked the applicant “to provide Part V accommodation in a block which forms part of this application”, in its decision letter which asks for further information in a number of areas.
O’Brien worries that Hines’s application indicates an intention to do the social-housing element of the development last, he said. “When are these Part Vs going to be delivered? There is chronic overcrowding of people on the social-housing list.”
A spokesperson for Hines said: “There will be Part V units in line with legislation.”
He said that the, “a misprint in the original application as to the anticipated location of the social housing will be clarified in the upcoming response to the Council’s request for further information.”
The clarification will note that the proposed units will be in Block A3 and Block F3 of the site, he said.
As well as those on the social housing list, there are many others who are above the threshold for social housing, but still can’t afford to rent or buy in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, says O’Brien.
Some have had to move to other counties to find housing, he says, and so they spend up to three hours a day commuting to and from work.
“Cherrywood is seen as a hope for people, to have a future that is connected to the area they were born and grew up and where they work,” he says. “And it seems to be failing them.”
In addition to the 10 percent social housing, all of the ten developers on Cherrywood sites are obliged to provide some “affordability element“, in exchange for infrastructure funding of €15 million that they received from government under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF).
Earlier, that meant homes below a certain price, but that obligation was later rolled back.
And, earlier this month, in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Housing refused to release the memorandums detailing how the developers say they will meet this commitment, saying that information was commercially sensitive.
The response said that the department does intend to publish some details around “projected housing delivery including details of commitments to provide reduced cost or affordable housing and the average market value of housing for given areas”. But it didn’t say exactly when.
According to the schedule of records that the department did release, Hines signed a memorandum of understanding in relation to affordability and the infrastructure funding at Cherrywood on 13 October last year.
O’Brien says it is frustrating that the council owns land in the Cherrywood SDZ both directly and indirectly through a limited company DLR Properties. “They could build out 15 percent of the total development in social and affordable housing.”
A spokesperson for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council indicated that details of the deal on affordable homes in Cherrywood should be available soon.
On 2 November last year, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing said: “Further details regarding the approved LIHAF projects and the associated housing will be published shortly on the Department’s website.”
The Cost of Social Housing
“We are not getting any information as elected reps, in terms of what is coming in on Part V, the costings of Part V, or even the funding strategy for how the council is going to acquire 800 units,” says O’Brien.
(For the whole of Cherrywood – across multiple developments – the council should get around 800 units through the Part V mechanism.)
In the past, some have raised concerns about how much developers are charging for social housing under Part V.
In its application, Hines set out the estimated costs of the social housing of €243,113.82 for one-bed apartments, €358,531.49 for two-bed apartments, and €442,025.12 for three-bed apartments.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said it wouldn’t comment on how much the developer is asking the council to pay for the homes it plans to acquire for use as social housing.
A spokesperson for Hines said the council “will independently assess the actual costs of the developer in providing the housing and pay for the housing on that basis”.
[CORRECTION: this story has been updated to more accurately reflect Hines’ plans for fulfilling its Part V obligations, and to clarify that while the LIHAF fund in total is €200 million, not all of that will fund infrastructure for this particular site.]