Northern Irish group wants to build Dublin public housing

Apex proposes developing 1,300 properties on vacant land as part of council scheme

Up to 1,300 homes, most of which would be available to rent, could be built in Dublin by a Northern Ireland not-for-profit housing association.

Apex, one of the North's largest housing associations, wants to build public housing on Dublin City Council sites through a council initiative that aims to develop houses and apartments on almost 32 hectares of vacant city land.

Apex is one of 58 parties that have made submissions to the council to build and manage housing at four sites, including O’Devaney Gardens, the 1950s flat complex that was the subject of a failed public-private partnership (PPP) scheme between the council and developer Bernard McNamara.

In its first major housing programme since the property crash, the council wants to develop a new model of “public housing”, providing rental accommodation for people on the social housing waiting list and for private tenants.

Commercial element

A small element of owner-occupier homes and commercial/retail development might also be accommodated on the sites .

In a report to councillors on the initiative, the council's head of housing Dick Brady said developers, investors, housing associations, modular housing specialists and consortiums from Ireland and the UK had engaged in talks on developing the lands for public housing.

Councillors from most parties said if the council could not develop the lands within its own resources, their preference would be for talks to be advanced with approved housing bodies as an initial step.

Apex chief executive Gerry Kelly said the association had a fully funded proposal to build 1,300 homes in Dublin that could be available to families at a discounted rental rate.

The model was already working in Northern Ireland, where Apex managed more than 5,000 homes, Mr Kelly said.

“We are the largest housing developer in Northern Ireland since the crash; in the last eight years we have been responsible for the delivery of 30 per cent of the housing built here.”

Private finance

Apex had the financial backing for the Dublin project, Mr Kelly said: “The key thing is raising private finance.

“We have that in place and we have all the expertise and skills needed to build and manage social housing and private rental housing.”

The association would not be seeking to acquire the land from the council but wanted a long-term lease - possibly 30 years - which would allow it to offer “whole-of-life tenancies” to tenants, Mr Kelly said.

The council intends to draw up specific proposals for the four sites: O’Devaney Gardens, St Michael’s Estate and sites in Santry and Darndale.

St Michael’s was also to have been developed under a PPP with Mr McNamara.

Last year the council completed 75 houses and apartments on the site, but substantial lands remain.

The Santry site is at Coolock Lane, just east of the entrance to the Dublin Port Tunnel, while the Darndale site is at the junction of the Malahide Road and Belcamp Lane.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times