O’Devaney Gardens gets the go-ahead, but questions remain

Analysis: The affordable housing plan for this regeneration project seems aspirational at best

Dublin City Council yesterday approved the regeneration plans for O’Devaney Gardens. Photograph: Tom Honan

Dublin City Council yesterday approved the regeneration plans for O’Devaney Gardens. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

After much wrangling and posturing, Dublin city councillors have finally agreed a deal to allow Bartra Capital to go ahead with the regeneration of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7.

The deal differs from one agreed by the previous council in January 2017 in that it allocates 30 per cent of the total number of homes on the site for a cost rental or affordable rental scheme.

Under this provision in the new agreement, an approved housing body would be selected by the council and would buy 247 homes from Bartra. The housing body would then rent the homes to qualifying low- and middle-income earners, who would pay a rent based on the cost of providing the housing, rather than a market rate rent.

However, with no indication of how much that rent would be, whether there is an approved housing body interested in the scheme, and where the money would come from to fund the purchase of the 247 homes, the new provision in the deal seems aspirational at best.

The council’s head of housing Brendan Kenny has made it clear the council won’t be stumping up the cash, saying they would work closely with and support the selected housing body “as much as possible”, but getting the cash together would be for the housing body alone.

It is understood that Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy isn’t getting his purse out either. The Minister last month accused councillors of “hypocrisy” when they deferred a decision on the deal, noting that parties on the council were rejecting a deal they themselves had formulated in 2017. The 2017 deal had been championed in particular by Sinn Féin.

Separately in a letter to the council Mr Murphy said if the deal was overturned it would result in a “very significant” delay in providing much-needed housing in the city centre.

Bartra said it is willing to sell “some or all of the private units” to the council or its nominee. Well of course. Why wouldn’t it be willing to get these guaranteed sales, particularly when, as it said in a letter to Mr Kenny, it would be at a “price to be determined by the preferred tenderer”.

Bartra said the price would be in line with what it is in its tender documents. But it is not clear if this relates to the price of affordable homes, which was in the region of €420,000 before State subsidies are applied, or the private costs, which would see prices top €500,000.

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