Dublin City Council has opted not to acquire units for social housing at three new docklands developments.
The council has instead decided to acquire cheaper units at alternative sites in the city as its plans for social integration continue to be frustrated by premium docklands prices.
Under planning laws, the council is entitled to acquire 10 per cent of residential units at new developments in the city centre for social housing. But despite its stated preference for acquiring units on site, the council has increasingly come to agreements with developers to acquire homes at alternative locations rather than pay escalating docklands prices.
Legislation allows councils to acquire units on site or lease or acquire them off site. And with prices in the upper six figures for docklands apartments, the council has looked for better value by buying elsewhere.
The three developments are 6 Hanover Quay, Boland’s Mill and 8 Hanover Quay.
The Cairn Homes development of 6 Hanover Quay, for example, which comprises 120 apartments, a restaurant and cafe, was sold last year by the developer to Carysfort Capital for more than €100 million. Savills Ireland has since been appointed to market the site for rent as Opus but the development will have no social housing. Instead of securing 12 or so of the apartments at the development, at an average gross price of €800,000 per unit, the council opted instead to agree with the developer to acquire 13 units at nearby Castleforbes Square in Dublin 1.
Similarly, the council has also come to an agreement with the developer of the Boland's Mill site on Dublin's Barrow Street. This development will include three landmark buildings with 28,000sq m of office space, 46 apartments, cafes and cultural space. The entire site was sold to internet giant Google last year for about € 300 million. Instead of acquiring four or so apartments at the site, the council will buy three units elsewhere "within the electoral area".
A comparable agreement was reached with developers of the Reflector Building on 8 Hanover Quay. The six-storey office edifice, home to Airbnb and LogmeIn, also contains 40 apartments. But here again rather than acquire four of these units, the council opted for four “off site”, although it did not indicate exactly where.
It is the latest in a series of such agreements. Earlier this year, the council came to an accord with Kennedy Wilson – developers of the Capital Dock on Dublin's Sir John Rogerson's Quay – where apartments are being rented from € 3,300 a month.
Instead of acquiring 10 per cent of the 190 apartments for social housing, the council agreed to purchase 40 from the developer at the Herberton development in Rialto instead, also fulfilling Part V requirements (under the Planning & Development Act 2000) for its Clancy Quay development at the same time.
Moreover, last year Chartered Land bought a block of apartments in Ringsend for social housing rather than provide such homes at its Lansdowne Place development in Ballsbridge. One penthouse at this development sold for a record €6.5 million and apartments start at €800,000.
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien said while it is understandable that a local authority might seek better value for money by purchasing units away from prohibitively expensive developments, the issue threatened the spirit of a law designed to encourage social mix.
“I can understand the predicament that Dublin City Council are in but what it does is point to the total and utter necessity to build on our own land,” he said. “That’s what we should be doing because that is affordable.”
Mr O’Brien said that if local authorities are forced or encouraged to avoid buying units in expensive developments then they should at least be able to source a greater number of units at an alternative site.
“With the docklands development . . . one of the fair criticisms is that some of the existing communities that live there feel that they are being moved out or haven’t been brought into the new developments that are there,” he said. “I think this would propagate that.”