Councillors approve PPP plans for 500 homes

Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare homes to be built over three- to four years for €100m

The council management wants to start the process of seeking a project group to develop all six sites this month. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The council management wants to start the process of seeking a project group to develop all six sites this month. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Plans to build 500 social homes in Dublin and its surrounding commuter counties using a public private partnership (PPP) deal, have been approved by Dublin city councillors.

The social housing projects will be the first large-scale PPPs pursued since the collapse of the developer-led social housing system nine years ago. Developer Bernard McNamara backed out of a PPP deal to develop five city council sites for housing in 2008, leaving council housing flat complexes derelict.

The Government’s Social Housing Strategy 2020, published in 2014, proposed returning to PPPs as an off-balance sheet mechanism to provide housing for local authority tenants.

In October 2015, then minister for the environment Alan Kelly announced six locations had been chosen for the 500 homes. Two of the sites were in Dublin city at Ayrfield on the Malahide Road and Scribblestown in north Dublin. Sites at Dunleer in Louth, Convent Lands in Wicklow Town and Craddockstown in Naas, Co Kildare were also selected.

The homes will be built over a three- to four-year period at a cost of about €100 million. Unlike previous PPP models, the sites will stay in the ownership of the State and the developer will get payments for a 25-year period, after which the houses or apartments return to State ownership.

Start the process

Councillors have agreed to allow the city council to act as the contracting authority on behalf of the other local authorities. The council management wants to start the process of seeking a project group to develop all six sites this month.

Sinn Féin councillor and chairman of the council’s housing committee Daithí Doolan said Minister for Housing Simon Coveney should scrap the plan and fund the 500 units either 100 per cent through central government capital financing or with low-interest Housing Finance Agency loans.

However he said should the PPPs go ahead “developers with a history of non-compliance must be excluded” he said.

Workers’ party councillor Éilis Ryan said the “multi-county ‘bundle’ approach” to developing public land risked repeating “disastrous PPP failures” of the past.

“As soon as a private developer faces financial difficulties, the city council – and all those awaiting council housing – will be burned yet again.”

Fianna Fáil councillor David Costello and Labour councillor Andrew Montague, said they were concerned about the social mix in the new developments.

Council chief executive Owen Keegan said he recognised councillors had “valid concerns” in relation to returning to the PPP system which had a “very poor record in Dublin”, but he said “this is a very different form of PPP” and was similar to those used to build health centres and schools. If the council did not choose to take control of the process “it will be handed to some other State agency” he said.

The majority of councillors, including Mr Doolan and other Sinn Féin members voted in favour of the PPP plan.