Dublin build-to-rent scheme will exacerbate housing crisis, SF leader says

Proposed €610 million Drumcondra scheme opposed by majority of submissions

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that if planning is approved for the 1,614 build-to-rent apartments on the grounds of Clonliffe College in Drumcondra, Dublin, it would only exacerbate the housing crisis.

The Dublin Central TD is one of 120 parties to make submissions on the €610 million build-to-rent scheme proposed by the Irish arm of US property giant Hines.

The majority of those who lodged submissions about the scheme were opposed to the plan which consists of of 12 apartment blocks ranging from two storeys to 18 storeys in height.

The Holy Cross College strategic housing development is to comprise 540 studios, 603 one-bed units, 418 two-bed units and 53 three-bed units.

One of the objectors, the Clonliffe and Croke Park Residents’ Association, claimed that the scheme would have a “catastrophic” impact on the long-established community in the area.

Hines has already committed to allocating 20 per cent of the apartments for social and affordable housing and as part of the first phase of that commitment, documents lodged with An Bord Pleanála put a price tag of €61 million on 161 apartments to be sold to Dublin City Council.

The final price will be determined if and when Hines secures planning permission for the ambitious scheme.

However, in an objection to the apartments, Ms McDonald said ‘build-to-rent’ schemes were driven by investors seeking to exploit the high demand for housing and apartments in urban centres.

“As a consequence, these developments drive up the cost of that land, making standard residential development for Dublin even more unaffordable,” she said.

She pointed out that 70 per cent of the units were one-beds and studios. “This does not meet the housing needs of Dublin Central,” she argued.

Scale

Dublin city planning officer with An Taisce Kevin Duff said it had a serious concern over the scale of the scheme and argued that building to rent militated against the fostering of the longer-term community in the area.

Maynooth academic and housing expert Rory Hearne said: "This mega build-to-rent scheme would essentially be a private enclave set apart from the local area, owned by overseas institutional investors. This is a reversion of 100 years in social progress of land ownership."

Mr Hearne further claimed that the development was “part of a race to the bottom in the Irish housing system” and if approved would give the green light to others to pursue similar type developments.

Requesting an oral hearing into the scheme, Mr Hearne also said that there were insufficient units for families in the development.

Former environment editor with The Irish Times, Frank McDonald said in his objection that the “overblown scheme” was “just another element in the ongoing commodification of housing in Dublin for international capital investment, engineered by the property lobby and facilitated by successive mandatory guidelines”.

Mr McDonald said the 12 apartment blocks constituted nothing more than money trees in a landscaped setting.

‘Catastrophic impact’

The Clonliffe and Croke Park Residents’ Association said it strongly opposed the scheme “because it would have a catastrophic impact on the long established community into which it is proposed to be located, in terms of its environmental impact and scale”.

The Griffith Avenue and District Residents’ Association said: “We are a low-rise village and this present plan will dominate the area, both in terms of height and style.”

However, in comprehensive submissions on behalf of Hines, planning consultants Brady Shipman & Martin said the scheme “provides for high-quality residential accommodation close to the city centre and a key public-transport corridor”.

The consultants said the scheme was consistent with the national, regional and local policy framework “and the proposal will provide for an effective and efficient use of this former institutional lands which are highly accessible”.

The consultants also said the proposed development site could achieve increased building height and resulting building density without negatively impacting on the surrounding environment.

The period for lodging submissions is now closed and An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the scheme in early November.