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Docklands watchdog warns Minister over social housing

Social integration ‘has failed’ due to funding caps

In a letter to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, the oversight body strongly recommended that Dublin City Council be allowed to exceed the spending thresholds for social housing to enable it to buy apartments in the docklands for its tenants. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

The watchdog established to oversee the development of Dublin’s docklands has called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to “relax” spending caps on social housing in the docklands as a matter of urgency.

In a letter to Mr Murphy the Dublin Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum, a statutory body set up after the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) was axed, said social integration in the area “has failed” due to the high cost of apartments.

The oversight body “strongly recommended” that Dublin City Council be allowed to exceed the spending thresholds for social housing to enable it to buy apartments in the docklands for its tenants.

The letter echoes recent calls by Tony Flynn, executive manager of the council’s housing department, who said a“special case needs to be made for the provision of social housing” in certain parts of the city where it was “proving extremely difficult to secure apartments,” due to funding caps.

Under the planning laws, developers must provide 10 per cent of any development of 10 homes or more to local authorities at a discounted price. Changes made in 2015 mean councils can no longer take cash from the developer instead of social housing, but they can take homes or land at another location.

The department requires the council to stay within average costs of €286,300 for one-bedroom apartments or €372,100 for two-beds within any development. However, it must not pay over a ceiling of €400,800 or €469,500 respectively for any one- or two-bed apartment.

It emerged earlier this month that there will be no social housing in property investment company Kennedy Wilson’s new Capital Dock apartment scheme on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and the developer would instead provide the council with apartments in its Herberton development in Rialto.

In its letter to Mr Murphy the oversight body said the social housing spending thresholds needed to be relaxed so that apartment would be provided “on-site” in the docklands. It also asked that the Department of Housing fund any additional management fee costs associated with these more expensive apartments.

“Due to the current cost of new builds within the Docklands, acquiring these units is prohibitive and as a result only off-site units are achievable,” it said. “This problem needs urgent attention.”

The objectives of the redevelopment of the docklands in relation to “social integration has failed because of this,” it said.

The Department of Housing said the letter had been referred to the relevant section in the department.