Council May Buy Studio Apartments for Use as Long-Term Social Housing

Dublin City Council may pay Hines an average of €300,000 each for 60 studio apartments to use as social homes at its planned development on Clonliffe Road in Drumcondra, show planning documents.

Hines has not yet received planning permission for the project, but its pitch for what apartments it would offer the council as social homes, and how much it would expect for them, is part of its application.

The studios Hines is offering the council would be 37.8sqm and don’t have balconies.

Dublin City Council doesn’t have any plans to build studio apartments, but it accepts studios in private developments, says a Dublin City Council spokesperson.

“Studio apartments are considered suitable for social housing,” they said, and would suit many single people on the housing list.

But not everyone agrees. Peter Dooley, co-founder of Dublin Renter’s Union says that rental standards have been eroded and that decline is hurting social tenants.

Says Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan: “You can call it whatever, we will be housing people in bedsits. It’s wholly unsustainable and it should not be part of the solution,”

A spokesperson for Hines says the proposed development generally exceeds minimum standards and will be a top-class finish. There is no reduction in standards for the smaller homes, he says.

Getting a Cut

By law, under a rule known as “Part V”, when developers build big complexes, the council can buy 10 percent of the homes – or lease them, or buy the land, depending on what they opt for – for social housing.

The council hasn’t bought any studios yet through the Part V route, said a council spokesperson. But it expects to buy them in the future and possibly lease some too, they said.

If a developer builds a studio apartment for sale, it has to be 40sqm. Studios that are built to rent in big complexes fall under lower standards, and so have to be only 37sqm.

Some say that social homes shouldn’t be built to the smaller sizes permitted under the build-to-rent regulations.

The Hines spokesperson says the majority of households on Dublin City Council’s social-housing list are single people.

“The inclusion of studios and one beds within the Part V allocation, mirrors the high percentage of single people on the DCC housing waiting list,” he says.

Peter Dooley, founder of Dublin Renters’ Union, says that studios aren’t suitable as long-term homes for single people though.

Single people don’t expect to be allocated penthouse apartments, he says, but they should have a living area that is separate from their bedroom.

How does the council decide who from the social housing list gets a whole apartment while someone else only gets a studio? he says. “It isn’t fair.”

Says Dooley: “We are driving down living standards and we are going backwards.”

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe says that using studio apartments as long-term social housing is worrying. “It’s pretty tough being in a studio for a long period of time.”

People need to be able to separate where they sleep from where they live and work, he says. “One-beds are small, but studios are very small.”

In the past, Dublin City Council didn’t provide much accommodation for single people, he says. Many just sat on lists and were never offered a home, Cuffe says.

Doolan, the Sinn Féin councillor, says the council has no control over the type of housing it allocates because it isn’t developing large projects itself.

Instead, it relies on getting 10 percent of whatever the private developers are building. “We are getting the crumbs off the table,” he says.

The council also pays a lot of money for those homes, says Doolan.

In Drumcondra

Of the 1,614 homes planned for Clonliffe Road in Drumcondra, there are 540 studio flats, 603 one-beds, and 418 two-beds and 53 three-beds.

Alongside the 60 studios that Hines has offered to the council, it has also offered to sell 43 one-beds and 58 two-beds, all of which would have balconies – as would most of the homes in the complex, plans show.

Architect Rob Curley, who is campaigning against Hines’ plans in Drumcondra, says: “The quality of the units in this scheme is awful.”

The studios being offered as social homes are 37.8sqm, with windows on only one side, and they have no private outside space, he says.

“Even think practically in terms of smell, your bed is in the middle of the space and there is no cross ventilation,” he says.

The Hines spokesperson says that there are full-length windows that open out.

The interior of the complex will be finished to a high standard and the development includes outdoor amenity space and in-house facilities like gyms, a creche and laundry facilities, said the Hines spokesperson.

Whether or not social tenants will be able to access facilities like the gym will be up to the housing charity that manages the social homes, says the Hines spokesperson.

The development is a top-quality sustainable design of the highest standard, exceeding the requirements of building regulations and residents will benefit from solar panels and air-source heat pumps** **to reduce energy bills, he says.

“The design is of an extremely high standard and has been drawn up by the country’s leading and award-winning architectural firms,” says the Hines spokesperson.

The architects are Henry J. Lyons, McCullough Mulvin Architects, O’Donnell + Tuomey and O’Mahony Pike Architects, he says.

Set Apart

In the Drumcondra development the proposed social homes are bunched together in two blocks, apart from the other renters in the complex.

Integrating social and private rental homes is good for social mixing, says Doolan, and he understands the case for doing that.

But in some complexes, mixing them together made maintenance more difficult, he says.

Say a council tenant is affected by a leak from upstairs, but the council has no power to compel the landlord of the person above them to fix it. It is easier for the council to do maintenance if it has control of the whole block, he says.

Said the Hines spokesperson: “The decision on whether the units are distributed throughout the scheme or located in one area is guided by Dublin City Council and the final Approved Housing Body.”

Hines is happy to integrate the scheme, he says, but the council often prefers the social housing to be all together to make it easier to manage.

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Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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