Drumcondra residents oppose build-to-rent scheme

Over 1,600 rental-only apartments will mean ‘return to absentee landlordism’ – campaign

A general view from Croke Park. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

A general view from Croke Park. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

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Residents in Drumcondra, Dublin, are urging An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for 1,614 build-to-rent apartments on Clonliffe Road, 70 per cent of which will be studio or one-bedroom units.

US property group Hines is seeking permission to develop apartment blocks up to 18-storeys tall on the site of the old Holy Cross seminary.

Hines has submitted its application for the scheme directly to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Housing Development process, which is due to be discontinued next year.

A local campaign group, Stop Holy Cross College, said the development of rental-only apartments could lead to rent and house price inflation, lower living standards and “a return to absentee landlords”.

Architects Rob Curley and Alfonso Bonilla, who are members of the group, said the scale of build-to-rent in this proposal was “completely inappropriate”.

In a joint submission to the board, they said the lower space standards allowed under the build-to-rent system, which permits smaller apartments than those in developments intended for sale, were “designed to profit and investment class” and could have a “massive and essentially irreversible impact on the spatial quality of the apartments and the apartment buildings”.

‘Unprecedented’

Having a rental-only development would serve to push up rent prices as local landlords would pitch their rents at a higher level to match those of the new development, while providing no route to home ownership could drive up house prices, they claimed.

“This 1,614 unit mega-scheme is essentially a new 100 per cent build-to-rent neighbourhood,” they said. “Zero apartments in this scheme are proposed to be offered for sale to the general public in what would be the largest development in the area in over a century. This is unprecedented in the area specifically, and Ireland generally.”

The development would provide “excessive rental profit for an overseas institutional investor at the expense of salaries of local residents”, they said.

“This proposal would be more akin to a return of large-scale ‘absentee landlordism’. To allow this scheme permission to go ahead as 100 per cent build-to-rent would in effect reverse 100 years of progress in land ownership patterns in the area specifically, and Ireland generally.”

Mr Curley said they were not opposed to the heights proposed or number of apartments. “We would welcome thousands of new neighbours, and this site is calling out for development. However, there should be options for people to buy homes,” he said.

Area demographics

Hines said the proposed development responded to the demand and demographic of the area, where 51 per cent of households are either single occupancy or couples without children.

The apartment mix is future-proofed, it said, and the design can respond to market demand where two one-bed units could be converted into three-bed units.

Submissions on the plans can be made to An Bord Pleanála until 5.30pm on Thursday.

The archdiocese of Dublin two years ago sold the lands to the GAA for about €95 million. The GAA sold about eight hectares to Hines and is separately building a 200-bed hotel elsewhere on the site, which is close to Croke Park.