Developer to defy Covid-19 restrictions and resume building work

Ó Cualann says it will restart work on second affordable housing project in Ballymun

An affordable housing scheme in Ballymun in north Dublin built by Ó Cualann Cohousing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An affordable housing scheme in Ballymun in north Dublin built by Ó Cualann Cohousing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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The developer behind the only “affordable housing” project built in the State for more than a decade is to restart work on-site this week in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions.

Housing co-op Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance, which is building its second estate in Ballymun, said buyers, some of whom are currently living in overcrowded conditions, will lose mortgage approval if the homes are not completed within weeks.

However, the scheme was not included in the list of 35 housing developments where work has been permitted to restart, and Ó Cualann would be breaching Covid-19 restrictions if workers return to site.

Last week the State’s Housing Agency announced work could resume on 35 “essential” social housing projects, across 14 counties, where completion could be achieved within six weeks.

The selection of projects was based on lists provided by local authorities. Dublin City Council submitted 11 projects, including Ó Cualann’s Cranogue estate of 37 homes in Ballymun, seven of which were undergoing final finishing works that Ó Cualann chief executive Hugh Brennan said could be completed within four weeks.

However, just three Dublin city projects were selected by the agency, and do not include the Ó Cualann scheme.

All members are approved for mortgages and are worried that their approvals will lapse

Last Thursday Mr Brennan wrote to the agency and the council saying he intended to return to work on Tuesday.

“Some of our members are in dire need of their new homes, having given notice to landlords to quit and are very concerned that they may have to vacate their rented accommodation before their new homes are ready; others are living in over-crowded conditions. This is now a critical issue. All members are approved for mortgages and are worried that their approvals will lapse.”

Procedures

Workers would be adhering to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Covid-19 operating procedures on travel to and from work, “gaining access to site, work practices, hygiene and physical distancing regulations, meals, sanitation issues, clothing and PPE”, Mr Brennan said.

Ó Cualann had also prepared a site-specific induction presentation in line with CIF and HSE advice, he said.

“Our site is currently being prepared with Covid-19 related infrastructure including signage, physical distancing markers both at the site entrance and on-site, modified canteen, hygiene, sanitising and other welfare facilities.”

Ó Cualann was in a position to restart work safely and could demonstrate its revised work practices “will ensure that no worker or delivery person or consultant can infect any other person with Covid-19 as a result of returning to work on our site”, he said.

“We are concerned that a prolonged interruption to our construction will have long-term consequences both for our purchasers whose mortgage approvals may lapse, and for our workers.”

As of Friday Mr Brennan said he had not received a response to his letter. When contacted by The Irish Times the Housing Agency said queries in relation to specific projects were a matter for the relevant local authority.

The council’s head of housing Brendan Kenny said while Ó Cualann was on its list submitted to the agency, it was not one of the three selected projects and therefore work was not allowed to restart.

Ó Cualann, which began selling its first estate in Ballymun in 2017 with prices starting from €140,000, last week featured on RTÉ’s Changing Ireland: My Big Idea programme.

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