More than 1,000 homes at Dublin site will not be protected from fund investors

Application for O’Devaney Garden in blocks up to 14 storeys submitted to An Bord Pleanála

The O’Devaney Gardens social housing complex near the Phoenix Park in Dublin 7 currently under construction. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The O’Devaney Gardens social housing complex near the Phoenix Park in Dublin 7 currently under construction. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

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None of the 1,047 homes planned for the site of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7 will be protected by new planning rules to prevent “bulk buying” of homes by investment companies, it has emerged.

Developers Bartra have lodged an application to An Bord Pleanála to redevelop the former Dublin City Council flat complex in nine blocks up to 14 storeys tall.

The application comes just one week after Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien issued new guidelines to local authorities and An Bord Pleanála directing them to use the planning system to stop investment companies from buying up estates.

Almost all of the new homes at O’Devaney Gardens will be apartments, with just 43 houses and duplexes ringfenced from bulk sales. However, all these houses and duplexes are already earmarked for use for social or affordable housing and won’t be offered to the private market.

The Government earlier this month decided to increase stamp duty to 10 per cent on the purchase of more than 10 houses, to discourage bulk buying. In addition, Mr O’Brien said he intended to introduce planning legislation to prevent institutional investors buying out housing estates. He said he would examine whether apartments could be included in the scheme.

However, on Wednesday Mr O’Brien said he had already issued a directive to planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála blocking the sale of homes to institutional investors.

Guidelines

Under these ministerial guidelines applications for five or more houses or duplexes will be subject to conditions confining their sale or use to individual purchasers and those eligible for social and affordable housing, including cost-rental housing. However, these rules, issued last week, do not apply to apartments.

Under an agreement reached with the council two years ago, 30 per cent of the O’Devaney Gardens homes will be reserved for social housing and 20 per cent for affordable purchase. The remaining 50 per cent are described as “developer units”, which Bartra can sell privately.

Bartra offered to make 30 per cent of these private apartments available for a cost-rental scheme. A spokesman for the company said on Thursday discussions with the council and approved housing bodies on this offer were still ongoing.

Planning permission is not contingent on a cost-rental scheme going ahead at O’Devaney Gardens, and if the negotiations are not successful, Bartra can sell the 523 apartments privately. The spokesman said it had not been decided if these would be sold in bulk to an investment firm and no decisions would be made until negotiations on the potential cost-rental sales had concluded.

More than 80 per cent of the new homes will be one- and two-bedroom apartments, with 318 one-beds, 567 two-beds and 162 three-bed homes. Bartra said it hopes to be on-site before the end of this year, with the scheme developed in phases over three years.

Social homes

Separately, the council is currently building 56 social homes at O’Devaney Gardens, which are due for completion in the first quarter of next year.

The new estate will be significantly larger than the 1950s complex of just under 300 flats which were demolished in phases over the last decade.

The dilapidated complex was to have been redeveloped under a public-private partnership between the council and developer Bernard McNamara but, after several delays, the deal collapsed in mid-2008.

The council drew up plans to redevelop the estate using public money but in late 2012 conceded it could not secure the €32 million needed and shelved the project.

In December 2016 the council got sanction from the Department of Housing to build the first 56 social homes. In January 2017 the council agreed to seek tenders to develop the site with a 50 per cent private, 30 per cent social and 20 per cent affordable housing mix.

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