Dublin council chief objects to O’Devaney Gardens project
Brendan Kenny says he is ‘not obliged’ to comply with decision on redevelopment
O’Devaney Gardens flat complex, Dublin. Dublin city councillors are facing pressure to reverse their decision to redevelop the site as a council-owned rental complex. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Pressure is mounting on Dublin city councillors to reverse their decision to redevelop O’Devaney Gardens as a council-owned rental complex.
Dublin City Council’s assistant chief executive Brendan Kenny, who will shortly take over as the council’s head of housing, has written to councillors to tell them he is “not obliged” to comply with their decision, saying that it conflicted with the Government’s new action plan for housing.
Mr Kenny, the former chief executive of the Limerick Regeneration Agency, said the council did “not want to get into the business” of running cost rental housing and could not support the financial burden of such a scheme.
Councillors last month voted in favour of a motion from Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan requiring all of the 479 planned new homes at the site close to the Phoenix Park, which will replace the dilapidated 1950s complex, to be “public, mixed-income housing”.
Under this scheme, all housing on the site would be rented from the council, with 50 per cent of homes rented to applicants on the council’s housing waiting list, and 50 per cent rented to households earning above the social housing threshold but with “demonstrated housing need”, who would pay higher rents in line with their incomes.
Prior to passing the motion, councillors had agreed that 30 per cent of the new homes on the site would be social housing.
Mr Kenny said the Government’s action plan “specifically points to the need to achieve good tenure mix ‘to create long-term sustainable communities and avoid the mistakes of the past’”.
The councillors’ plan “will not deliver a sustainable mix of housing tenure to fulfil the vision to regenerate O’Devaney Gardens and would not be consistent with national housing policy or indeed with the City Development Plan.
“It would deliver a large housing estate with all homes there owned by Dublin City Council, ” he said.
He said the councillors’ plan was not compatible with the existing planning permission for the first phase of redevelopment, which allows 60 social and 50 private homes.
However, Ms Ryan said Mr Kenny’s intervention was “an unacceptable infringement on the democratic mandate of city councillors.
“We have received clear legal advice that our motion is fully compatible with the existing planning permission.”
Ms Ryan said her proposal “specifically provides for a public housing system that will be accessed by both low- and higher-income earners, many of whom currently struggle to pay rent on the private market.
“There is no reason why mixed-income housing must be built only by private developers – we believe public housing should be accessible to all.”
O’Devaney Gardens 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 2008.
Most of the almost 300 flats at the complex had been emptied by that time in preparation for the regeneration scheme.
Demolition of vacant blocks began in September 2008.
The council drew up new plans to redevelop the estate using public money, for which it got planning permission in 2011, but in 2012 conceded it could not get the €32 million it needed and shelved the project.
Last year, the council said O’Devaney Gardens would be included in its vacant lands initiative, under which it hopes to attract housing providers to build a mix of social, affordable rental and starter homes on council land.