Deal between charity, bank and city council provides ‘new model’ for social housing
Pensioner (81) looking forward to moving off the ‘fold-up bed’ and into a home
Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan, with Patricia O’Brien, who will move into one of the new housing units at Glasnevin, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
There was rare praise for the banking sector yesterday as a charity unveiled what it called a “new model” for funding social housing.
Tina Donaghy, development manager of social housing charity Fold Ireland, said Bank of Ireland had initially been sceptical of its plans to redevelop local authority apartments in Glasnevin, north Dublin, through a 20-year leasing deal. “They could have walked away because there were so many bumps,” she said.
“But instead they said ‘keep talking; we are not going to close the door’.”
Under the deal, Fold is demolishing local authority flats at Ballygall Road East which once housed 76 older people, but have largely been vacated due to their condition. In their place, 39 state-of- the-art housing units are being built.
Three-quarters of the funding for the €3.5 million project is coming from a bank loan, which will be paid back under a long-term lease agreement with the Department of the Environment.
As well as putting up the remaining quarter of funds in grant aid, the department has committed to covering tenants’ rent for at least two decades so the bank has loan security.
Critical to the deal was Dublin City Council’s decision to release ownership of the site to Fold “at pre-contract stage”, said Ms Donaghy. “This gave the bank the comfort they needed to take a leap with us.”
Patricia O’Brien (81), who has been living in one of the tiny council flats for 14 years said she would be glad to have a bed at last that “stays put” and doesn’t have to be folded up into the wall.
“It’s not the easiest thing to do in the morning. Just to be able to eat and sleep in different rooms will be great,” she said.
By demolishing the bedsits in phases, she and her neighbours – two women and five men, all aged over 70 – have been able to remain together.
Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan described the funding structure as a “positive model and one we want to see developed”, suggesting there was scope for pension funds to invest in social housing, as well as traditional lenders.
Almost 90,000 people are now on housing waiting lists, including 242 older people in the area covering Cabra, Finglas, Glasnevin and Santry.