Junior minister seeks support to block redevelopment of Inchicore flats complex

Catherine Byrne says Dublin project designated by colleague Eoghan Murphy represents over-development

Fine Gael junior minister Catherine Byrne is seeking the support of Dublin city councillors to block the redevelopment of St Michael's Estate in Inchicore for cost-rental and social housing.

Her senior colleague Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy last July announced he was designating the site of the former council flat complex for the State's first not-for-profit rental scheme.

Councillors will debate the plans at a housing meeting on Thursday. However, Ms Byrne, Minister of State at the Department of Health, has asked that they meet her in Leinster House the previous day to discuss opposing the plans.

In a letter to councillors she said: “You may have heard that I have stated my opposition to this plan on the basis that I believe the size and scale of this project represents over-development of the site. The plan as outlined proposes 30 per cent social housing units, 60 per cent cost-rental units, and ‘possibly’ 10 per cent affordable units for purchase.”


Antisocial behaviour

Crime and antisocial behaviour were “serious issues facing our community at present and must be addressed before a huge new housing development gets under way”, she said.

“I believe that the proposal on the table for the former St Michael’s Estate site is simply the wrong one if it doesn’t include an option for long-term, permanent housing, alongside amenities and services which would benefit the community as a whole.”

Ms Byrne publicly clashed with Mr Murphy at an event in Inchicore in July when he announced his plans to develop a cost-rental estate, where the levels of rent would reflect the cost of providing the accommodation.

His plans for the site would see the construction of about 470 homes, 30 of which would be used for social housing with 60 per cent available on a cost rental basis – for rent to low- and middle-income workers, earning up to €50,000 or €75,000 as a couple, at between 15 to 25 per cent below market rates. A further 10 per cent may be affordable purchase homes, or could also be used for cost rental, depending on market interest.

‘Game changer’

Speaking at the event, Mr Murphy said the development would be a “game changer” for the rental market and had cross-party support.

However, Ms Byrne, who was not an invited speaker at the event, took to the podium to castigate her senior colleague’s proposals. “It’s probably one of the worst plans I’ve seen put forward for this site,” she said.

Prior to the announcement, the site had been approved by the council for a mixed-tenure development of 30 per cent social housing, 20 per cent affordable rental, and 50 per cent private homes for sale.

Councillors have also received letters from Inchicore residents opposing the plan. Concerns have been raised about the lack of social and retail infrastructure in the area, and the prospect that, if cost rental was not successful, the apartments could revert to social housing, turning the area into a “ghetto for social housing”.

Several residents have asked that the council defer its debate on the issue pending consultations with the local community.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times