A new proposal mooted last week for a council-owned site at Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock could mean that all 853 homes there would be social or affordable.
If councillors agree to sell the land to the developer Glenveagh – which already has detailed plans drawn up for it – then the Department of Housing will buy back the homes, said Dublin City Council’s housing manager, Brendan Kenny.
“We had a very good meeting with the minister, myself and the Lord Mayor [Alison Gilliland] and the previous Lord Mayor [Hazel Chu],” said Kenny, at a housing committee meeting last Wednesday.
The Oscar Traynor Road development was set to be a mix of 50 percent private, 30 percent social and 20 percent affordable-purchase homes.
But last November councillors rejected the deal. They were concerned that the private homes would be sold to a fund, they said at the time.
In March 2021, the councillors put forward an alternative. The council should develop the land itself, with 40 percent social housing, 40 percent cost-rental housing and 20 percent affordable-purchase homes, they said.
After the housing committee meeting last week, councillors said they want to see the details of any new proposals, with some indicating that they would support it if the mix of homes mirrors their earlier plans.
Bringing Back Glenveagh
“We think it is appropriate to bring the Glenveagh plan back to the council,” said Kenny speaking at the housing committee meeting on 8 September.
The new proposal will come before a meeting of the full council in October, said a council spokesperson, later.
At the meeting, Kenny said that there would be major delays if the council built the homes itself. It would take the council five to eight years, he said.
He pointed to the slow development of council-owned land at St Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, where in July 2018 the housing minister at the time launched cost-rental plans.
There was no political opposition to the plans, he said, yet “we’ll be very lucky to get the planning application in to An Bord Pleanála by December 2021”.
It will have taken the council three-and-a-half years just to get to the point of applying for planning permission, he said.
By contrast, the private developer Glenveagh has detailed drawings ready to go for the Oscar Traynor Road site, so it could build the homes in a couple of years, said Kenny.
Glenveagh is happy to sell the homes to the council, said Kenny.
Under the new proposal, the council would buy 40 percent of the homes for social housing and 40 percent for a cost-rental scheme. The last 20 percent would be sold to homeowners under an affordable-purchase scheme, he said.
The Department of Housing didn’t respond to a query as to whether it is willing to fund the purchase of the entire development.
Why The Tag Team?
Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu was at the meeting with the Minister for Housing, Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien, as she was the outgoing lord mayor.
The council has a working group set up to deal with the Oscar Traynor Road site and they have agreed on the mix of housing they want to see there, Chu said.
The minister and council managers say they are open to the mix that councillors want, she said. “Which would be a lot higher social and affordable than we have ever seen in a plan like this.”
The minister wants the development built very quickly, she says, so he won’t agree to the council building it itself, as that will cause delays.
“I’m not happy with the fact that it’s a private developer. But I don’t think we can change that part as easily,” she says.
Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, chair of the housing committee, says he wants to see the exact details of any new proposals, but if it delivers the housing mix agreed by councillors he would likely back the plan.
“If we can move this forward and get the sort of numbers that refers to I would be inclined to support it,” he says. “I want to see how it’s guaranteed and I want to see how it is financed.”
Independent Councillor John Lyons, however, says he is worried about whether the affordable homes in the scheme will be truly affordable for people on low and middle incomes.
“If Glenveagh is making 15 to 20 percent, how is that going to make the cost-rental affordable?” says Lyons.
A cost-rental scheme is based on the cost of building, so including large margins of profit for developer “undercuts it from the very get-go”, says Lyons.
To be called cost-rental in Ireland, rents have to be at least 25 percent below market rents.
Likewise, the state will need to heavily subsidise the affordable purchase homes so that people can afford them, says Lyons. This isn’t a sustainable model in the long-term, he says.
When the council builds homes directly it takes a very long time. Chu says that one of the reasons for the delays is the procurement process.
On top of that the council doesn’t these days have the internal expertise to deliver major projects, she says.
It needs to build up its capacity to start delivering homes at scale and at reasonable prices, she said, otherwise “it will forever tie us up with private developers”.