On a recent Thursday in Ringsend, around 20 residents gather outside Dyno-Rod, a drainage and plumbing company on York Road, where a planning application is fixed to the door.
The application is to demolish the existing one- and two-storey buildings and build 48 apartments in a tower that is 15 storeys at its highest point.
The developer, Melvin Properties Ltd currently has permission for seven storeys, which residents say is already too high.
“If the new plans get the go-ahead that would set a dangerous precedent for the development of the area and likely to be replicated elsewhere,” says local resident Shay Connolly.
The building would be out of character with the area and overshadow the homes around it, he says, worse still there will be no social housing in the development.
By law under Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 each private developer must provide 10 percent social housing under a rule that is commonly known as Part V.
However, if the ground floor of the site is less than 1,000 square metres (0.1 hectares) the developer can get an exemption.
Local political representatives say that exemption amounts to a loophole and they want to see it closed.
Under Part V the developer has to sell the homes to the council at a discount but in some expensive developments even that discounted price is still too high.
Elsewhere in the Ringsend and the south Docklands area, the council has failed to purchase the social homes in high profile developments due to price, at Capital Dock, 8 Hanover Quay and Boland’s Mill.
The lack of social and affordable housing in Ringsend means that young families are doubling up with grandparents in overcrowded situations and working-class people from the area are being pushed out of the city altogether, says Connolly.
“We are the most threatened community in Ireland,” he says. “There is gentrification at its finest going on here and this is the test case on this side of the river.”
The Size Exemption
In January 2020 developer Melvin Properties Ltd applied for planning permission to build 26 apartments in a seven-storey complex at the York Road site.
That was granted in June 2020 along with a social-housing exemption as the ground floor of the site is less than 0.1 hectare in size.
In July, Melvin Properties submitted a new planning application for the same site – this time proposing to build 48 apartments in a 10 to 15 storey development instead.
If the new plans for 48 apartments get the go-ahead, it too will be exempt from providing any social homes, because only the size of the ground floor is taken into account.
Niall Melvin of Melvin Properties Ltd said he didn’t wish to comment on the plans.
Alongside this Part V exemption, there is another one for developments of less than 10 homes, so small developments are already exempt.
A spokesperson for the Department of Housing didn’t directly answer a question as to why there is also an exemption based on the area of the ground floor.
Since the rules were introduced, the building regulations have changed significantly, says Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in housing at TU Dublin.
He points to the last minister for housing, Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, who removed restrictions on building height and reduced the minimum apartment size. That means that a lot more homes can be built on less than 0.1 hectare than was the case when the rules were introduced, he says.
It appears that no one in the Department of Housing considered the effect those changes would have on the Part V exemption, says Sirr. “It is a typical example of changing policy at the behest of developers without considering what the knock-on impact of that will be,” he says.
“It will be as high as Liberty Hall,” says Maria Mc Inern, one local who plans to object.
She is standing in the grounds of her apartment complex, Alexandra Quay, a four-story building directly beside the site, which faces the river Liffey. “It will overshadow everything,” she says.
The proposed building is totally out of line with the character of the area as it is three times higher than any other building in Ringsend, she says.
Ringsend is mostly made up of houses and cottages but also has lots of apartments, most of which are redbrick and around four storeys high.
“It is going to affect us more than anyone else because it’s going to be right on top of us,” says her neighbour, Margaret Rooney.
Rooney didn’t know there was a planning application for a seven-storey building next door, she says. She is concerned that this development will overshadow their communal garden.
Locals are not opposed to development in the area she says, but that development should be in line with the rest of the area. “It is a disgrace that they got seven storeys,” says Rooney.
Social Housing Need
Young people from Ringsend “are embedded to the place”, but for young working-class couples to get a home of their own they have to move “way out” says Connolly.
He knows people from the area who have moved to Portlaoise and Dundalk to secure housing, he says.
Rooney says she knows people who have had to move to Offaly and Wexford, too.
Some families are doubling up with their parent’s households to try to stay in the area, Connolly says. “The amount of three generations living in the one house in Ringsend now is phenomenal,” he says.
His own daughter and her children are living with him. There are five in his house, and a lot of other local families are more overcrowded, he says.
A lot of the homes in Ringsend were built as social housing in the first place, says Eamonn Cleary, who lives a couple of streets over from the site.
That is an integral part of what makes Ringsend what it is, he says. “It is the whole fabric of the community,” says Cleary.
Where Do Social Homes Go?
In several high-profile developments in the area, including Boland’s Mills, 6 Hanover Quay and 8 Hanover Quay, Dublin City Council decided not to purchase their allocation of social homes because they were too expensive. Instead, the council said it would purchase homes elsewhere in the local area.
Those developments should have included 21 social homes all together says a council spokesperson by email this week.
The council is buying seven of the social homes in the area around Ringsend and 14 in other parts of the city.
Instead of three social homes in Boland’s Mills Dublin City Council is getting one home at Ropewalk Place, Ringsend, one at Alexandra Quay, Ringsend and one at Fitzwilliam Point on Fitzwilliam Quay, all in Dublin 4
Instead of apartments at 6 Hanover Quay, all 12 social homes are being delivered at Castleforbes Square in Dublin 1, says the Dublin City Council spokesperson.
There should have been four social homes at 8 Hanover Quay, instead the council is buying two homes in Dublin 4 at Charlotte Quay and Ropewalk Place, but the other two are at Belgrave Mews, Dublin 6 and Hyde Court, Dublin 2, she says.
“Under the Part V legislation, where we do go off-site, the units must be located within the administrative area of Dublin City Council,” says the spokesperson.
Instead of buying homes in Dublin’s tallest building, Capital Dock, Dublin City Council purchased homes in Rialto in Dublin 8.
Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey says that the Part V system to supply social housing is not operating optimally, but even if it were it would not on its own meet the need for social and affordable homes in the city.
“We have to get back to the state building housing, it’s not rocket science and it’s not something new,” he says.
“Part V value is that you are using privately owned land to build social housing but that doesn’t make up for the councils not building any housing,” he says.
“Developers are buying their way out of providing social homes in the Ringsend area and that is not in line with the spirit of Part V,” says Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews. “It really is a crisis.”
There also needs to be community engagement with locals and agreement reached around heights, he says. “This development will effectively drive a coach and horses through the concept of community engagement,” says Andrews.