An affordable housing scheme which discriminates against Dubliners who have had to leave the capital because of high rents has been approved by councillors across all four Dublin local authorities.
Councillors in three Dublin local authorities – Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal – on Monday approved the scheme that determines who will be eligible to buy discounted homes built on local authority land. South Dublin County Council voted in favour of the scheme last week.
Dublin City Councillors agreed the scheme unanimously, despite acknowledging that it would disadvantage workers who cannot afford Dublin rents.
Affordable homes will be aimed at workers who are unable to secure mortgages to buy on the open market, but do not qualify for social housing. Once the homes are built, they will be sold to qualifying buyers at a discount of up to 40 per cent on market rates.
Local authorities have yet to build the homes, but were ordered to agree a “scheme of priority” issued by the Department of Housing to determine in what order prospective buyers will be chosen.
The basic criteria will be that the homes are the right size for the buyer. However, to narrow down this group the next criteria would be that at least one member of the household has been living in the council’s area for at least 12 months.
If there were still too many applicants, this would be narrowed down to those living in the area for at least 12 months who have a child in an educational institution within a set distance of the house for sale. If there are still too few houses, they would go to those who also had a household member with a job a set distance from the house.
However, the priority scheme does not include people who have had to move outside Dublin to rent.
It was an "extraordinarily badly written, badly presented, ill-thought through, last-minute scheme" , Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said.
“This is the Department engaged in last-minute politics two weeks before the local election. It leaves me with even less respect for the Department than I had before.”
Solidarity councillor Michael O’Brien said the scheme created a “perverse incentive” for people to stay living in overcrowded situations in Dublin.
Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan said the lottery system in the last affordable housing scheme, discontinued in 2011, was a fairer system.
Independent councillor John Lyons noted the last census found that 20,000 Dubliners had moved outside the Dublin region. He asked could the scheme be amended to include those who had lived in Dublin for any 12 month period in the last five years.
However, executive housing manager Tony Flynn said the council could not change its terms. City councillors agreed the scheme without a vote.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councillors last month unanimously rejected the scheme, but said last night they felt “forced” to reverse the decision.
The council's director of housing Catherine Keenan warned councillors they may lose out on funding for affordable housing schemes, including a large-scale project in Shanganagh near Shankill in south Co Dublin, if they did not approve the scheme.
Sinn Féin councillor Shane O’Brien said the scheme offered councillors nothing to tell people “on the doorsteps when they ask why their children can not come back into the county”.
People Before Profit councillors Hugh Lewis and Melisa Halpin said the new scheme "abandons" those who had moved out of the council's area in search of lower rents.
Councillors in Fingal said they feared that a failure to approve the scheme could result in council lands earmarked for housing being offered for sale, and also voted in favour of the scheme.