Dublin City Council in talks with Nama over social housing at Glass Bottle site

‘We’re acquiring that land’ says council chief executive Owen Keegan

Owen Keegan warned the housing committee that developing the social housing on the docklands site would be an expensive task. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Owen Keegan warned the housing committee that developing the social housing on the docklands site would be an expensive task. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Dublin City Council has entered negotiations with Nama over the purchase of land to accommodate up to 600 social and affordable homes at the Glass Bottle site in the capital’s docklands.

The negotiations between Nama and the council were confirmed by DCC chief executive Owen Keegan at a meeting of the Oireachtas Housing Committee on Tuesday.

“We’re acquiring that land,” he said. Deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny told The Irish Times he anticipates the deal will conclude in the coming weeks. It represents a chance to simplify delivery of social housing on the prime site, which were slowed down last year by a dispute between the council and the receiver over the lands, David Carson of Deloitte.

The council had been seeking a higher level of social housing than stipulated by developers Part V obligations, but Mr Carson had objected, arguing that there was no legal basis for enforcing such a condition.

Joint venture partner

Mr Kenny told The Irish Times that the new council lands would accommodate social housing alongside the Part V requirement to be delivered by the party that is ultimately responsible for developing the site. Nama is close to starting a process to find a joint venture partner for the site.

However, Mr Keegan warned the housing committee that developing the social housing on the docklands site, which is a former landfill, was going to prove an expensive task. “It’s going to pose a financial challenge. We are in discussions with the department about how we’re going to bridge that gap,” he said.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin welcomed the news, but warned that “huge challenges remain in the delivery of genuinely affordable rental and purchase housing”.

DCC, and the National Development Finance Agency warned the committee yesterday that local authorities will struggle to deliver affordable rental schemes at a level of less than €1,200 per month for a two-bedroom unit. Mr Ó Broin said a true affordable rent for someone on an income of €40,000 a year was in the region of €700 to €900 a month.

‘Huge difference’

“Some intervention from Government is needed to bring it down,” Mr Kenny told the committee on Tuesday, adding that there is a “huge difference” between affordable homes and homes that are merely below the market price.

A larger contribution towards the cost of installing infrastructure on a site, along with longer-term loans or restructured debt terms were suggested by officials from DCC and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council at the committee.

“Most modest income working people are already excluded from the affordable rental pilot project in Dún Laoghaire where rents will be set at €1,200,” Mr Ó Broin said. Affordable rents are generally seen as between 30 and 35 per cent of a household’s after-tax income.

It is also clear that the current pipeline of projects across the country is not even going to scratch the surface of the demand for genuinely affordable housing for those priced out of renting or buying their own home,” he said.

DCC is working on a series of schemes that will have a significant amount of affordable rental units in them; however many will not come on stream for several years. O’Devaney Gardens, where several hundred units will be developed, is the furthest advanced, but it is unlikely to be completed before the end of 2021. A planning application is not expected on the St Michael’s estate, where hundreds of cost rental homes are planned, before the spring of 2020. Projects in Cherry Orchard and Ballymun are further off still.