Dublin city councillors have approved €34 million in borrowing to fund the construction of a facility in Ballymun for outdoor staff and equipment, following a €20 million overrun in the cost of the project.
In June 2018 the council estimated the cost of the new operations depot at €54 million. However, council chief executive Owen Keegan said, following a "difficult tender process" the cost has risen to €74 million.
The council had planned to cover the cost of the project by selling smaller depot sites, with the workers and equipment redeployed to the new large depot in Ballymun. Any shortfall would have been funded through the council’s revenues.
The council has now devised a plan to lease nine sites to approved housing bodies (AHBs) who will develop the land for social housing. However, Mr Keegan said it is anticipated this will generate only €40 million for the council.
“On this basis, I am recommending that the balance of the required €74 million funding, ie €34 million be borrowed.”
Mr Keegan will now seek a 30-year loan from the Housing Finance Agency, which will cost some €1.5 million annually to repay. But he said he would consider if, following the pandemic, the council should go to tender again for the project.
At least 745 social homes could be built at sites in Rathmines, the Liberties, and the Tenters, on the southside of the city, and Portland Row, Stoneybatter, Cabra, Ballybough, Coolock and Collins Avenue on the north side.
Where previously the council transferred land to housing organisations for free, it plans to lease the sites to the AHBs at a reduction on the market value.
The meeting on Monday night was the first monthly city council meeting held since the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions. But all 63 councillors did not attend and instead a representative group of 17 met in Dublin Castle instead of City Hall.
Councillors largely welcomed plans to close College Green to traffic, and pedestrianise a significant number of streets, as part of a strategy to reopen the city centre as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The “temporary mobility plan” will be introduced over the next three to six months. But measures likely to remain in place for at least 12 to 18 months, with some retained on a permanent basis.
‘Air of unreality’
However, Labour Cllr Alison Gilliland asked if there had been consultation with those who have parking spaces in the city and said some people will not want to use public transport "because of contagion". Sinn Féin's Micheál Mac Donncha said there was a "slight air of unreality" and a "lot of confusion over what is temporary and what will be ongoing".
Fine Gael Cllr James Geoghegan said "car park operators don't have the interests of the city at heart".
Mr Keegan said there would be an ongoing requirement for social distancing. “These are temporary, but temporary could be there for quite a long time.”
Meanwhile the number of families in emergency accommodation in Dublin has hit a three-year low. According to the council there are 1,103 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin, the lowest number since May 2017.
A total of 216 families entered emergency accommodation for the first time between January and March 2020, compared to 276 in 2019 and 293 in 2018.
"This welcome reduction in family homelessness results mainly from a gradual decrease in new presentations over recent months and a continuing increase in exits into tenancies," said the council's head of housing Brendan Kenny.