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Councillors fear more delays to cost-rental homes at the former St Michael’s Estate in Inchicore after Dublin City Council terminated its contract with the architects.
Meanwhile, local residents have appealed developer Glenveagh’s plans for a complex on Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock that was to include cost-rental homes.
The Land Development Agency doesn’t have planning permission yet to build any cost-rental homes in the Dublin City Council area.
And none of the first two rounds of affordable homes bought by approved housing bodies and funded with help from the government’s Cost Rental Equity Loan (CREL) scheme were in Dublin city.
The government housing strategy, Housing for All, says that 10,000 cost-rental homes will be delivered in cities nationwide by 2026 – though it’s not clear how many of these are supposed to be in Dublin city.
Counting projects from the LDA, approved housing bodies and Dublin City Council, there are nearly 1,500 cost-rentals planned in the city from now to then, according to the April 2023 housing supply report.
But roughly 1,200 of those aren’t due until 2026, and only one AHB scheme with 75 cost-rentals in Crumlin has achieved planning permission, according to the April report. Last year, the AHB behind the project said that not all of those 75 homes were to be cost-rental after all.
A spokesperson for the Department of Housing didn’t directly address a query as to how many cost-rental homes will realistically be completed in Dublin city by the end of 2026.
“A strong pipeline of affordable housing delivery is in place and under continuous development,” they said.
The Emmet Road Development
One of the biggest cost-rental developments listed on the council’s housing updates is its own flagship project at Emmet Road in Inchicore.
Last October the council applied to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission for 578 homes – part of a scheme that also includes social homes and is now called the Emmet Road Development – which was designed by Bucholz McEvoy Architects, following extensive consultation with the local community.
On 6 April, the regeneration forum wrote to the council housing manager to express its concern about the council tendering for a new design team.
The council hasn’t given a reason for why it ended the contract with its old design team. It still needs architects to do detailed designs if/when planning permission is granted, and it has tendered for a new firm to do that work.
A council report issued last month says that the council expects the homes in Inchicore to be finished in 2026.
But councillors say the decision to tender for a new architect could further delay getting shovels in the ground on a scheme announced with fanfare in July 2018.
“If it’s not broken don’t fix it,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Máire Devine, who recently tabled a motion to the South East Area Committee, which councillors agreed unanimously, calling on the council to reverse the decision, “so as to avoid numerous inevitable lengthy delays that re-tendering poses”.
Dublin City Council housing manager Coilín O’Reilly said in a letter to the Inchicore Regeneration Consultative Forum that the change of architects won’t stall the homes because the council has possession of the designs.
“These documents are extremely detailed, as you would expect for a project that is at the planning stage, and a new design team will be able to pick up the process very quickly,” he wrote.
Focus on Inchicore
Three councillors say they don’t know why the Inchicore development is not proceeding with the Bucholz McEvoy Architects. The firm had built relationships with the local community and was committed to delivering very high-quality homes, they say.
The council officials are legally constrained by the contract from providing the reason why they ended it, say Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon and Labour Councillor Darragh Moriarty.
The architects were an excellent integrated design team, including landscape architects, and were “an essential and integral part of getting the development to where it is”, says Moriarty.
Many people in the community are losing trust in the council, he says. There was also a previous flare-up when the council announced that private homes could be included in the scheme just before they applied for planning permission.
“Goodwill has taken some hammer blows,” says Moriarty. “It’s incredibly disappointing.”
The regeneration forum said in its letter to O’Reilly that it held the integrated design team “in the highest regard and believe that their design of the ERD [Emmet Road Developments] is proposed with the highest standards of design principles, quality building materials, energy efficiency and climate mitigating initiatives in mind.”
Public-housing projects should be built to the very highest standards, in order to reduce maintenance costs and ensure they are successful long-term, says Angela Rolfe, who is a member of the Inchicore Regeneration Consultative Forum and an architect.
The Iveagh Trust Buildings are an example of high-quality public housing that stands the test of time, she says. “We want people to want to live in them for the next 100 years.”
O’Reilly, the council housing manager, said in his letter that he doesn’t accept that quality will be impacted by the decision to change architects because the high-quality designs which have benefited from widespread community consultation will be what is built.
“The project will be delivered in line with the planning permission once received,” he says. “Dublin City Council builds some of the best quality housing in Dublin City and there will be no change in this in the context of ERD [Emmet Road Development].”
Awaiting Cost Rentals
Cost-rental housing is an affordable rental model where rents are based on the cost of building the homes and their maintenance, and – in Ireland – at least 25 percent below market rents.
According to the government’s housing strategy, Housing for All, 2,000 new cost rental homes will be built by state agencies or non-profits each year from 2022 to 2026 in cities across Ireland.
“Over the period to 2026, it is intended that approximately 10,000 Cost Rental homes will be delivered in our urban centres by Local Authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and the Land Development Agency,” says the Housing For All strategy.
As well as providing some people with affordable housing, the roll-out of cost-rental housing is supposed to be on a big enough scale to help calm the private rental market.
“Delivery of Cost Rental at scale will also have a stabilising effect on the wider rental market,” says the Housing For All strategy.
It’s not clear what relationship exists between the Department of Housing targets and the building programme in the councils.
Within the Dublin City Council area, there’s a pipeline of 1,499 cost-rental homes scheduled to be built by the end of 2026, according to the April 2023 housing supply report.
But none of those are due to be done this year.
And just the 75 cost-rental homes in Crumlin with planning approval are listed to be done by the end of 2024, the April report says – which may be an overestimate of the numbers too.
Meanwhile in 2025, there are just 170 cost-rental homes due to be finished. They are part of phases one and two in a big project at Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock.
Developer Glenveagh has planning permission for 853 homes on that site, 340 of which are supposed to be cost-rental across all the phases. But two local residents have appealed the planning permission to An Bord Pleanála.
The remainder of the 1,499 homes – a total of 1,254 – are due to be finished in 2026, according to the council’s April report.
A spokesperson for the Department of Housing said it had approved funding for the homes at Emmet Road and it is currently assessing the funding applications for homes at Oscar Traynor Road and Cherry Orchard.
“DCC [Dublin City Council] is also working to bring a number of other schemes forward for early approval,” says the spokesperson.
The LDA is also seeking expressions of interest under Project Tosaigh, which aims to “unlock” sites with planning permission to build affordable housing, and is focused on high-density housing schemes in Dublin and Cork, says the spokesperson.
In reality, the first cost rental homes in the city could be delivered by the Housing Agency buying existing rental homes for tenants facing eviction and at risk of homelessness.
Under the cost rental tenant-in-situ scheme, the Housing Agency may buy a home from a landlord who is selling and allow the tenant to remain living there, if the tenant meets income and other requirements.