Public housing and private developers

 

Sir, – Olivia Kelly’s report “Plans for 853 Dublin homes collapse after councillors refuse to approve deal” (News, November 16th) contains the unsettling contention of the city council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, that if councillors refused to support the deal, “it could take up to eight years before the opportunity to develop the site would arise again”.

This is an extraordinary statement, and one that is not underpinned by any of the available evidence, whether in EU procurement rules or national planning legislation.

Dublin City councillors stood up for the tens of thousands of Dubliners currently struggling to secure affordable housing in the city. To have allowed half the proposed homes (428) to be sold privately by the developer at prices out of the reach of the majority of working people would have represented a gross misuse of a public asset.

A new model of housing provision which utilises public land to deliver public housing which is accessible to all, irrespective of income, is not only achievable but represents a much better use of our resources than disposing of public land to private developers. – Yours, etc,

Cllr JOHN LYONS,

Independent Left,

City Hall,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Eoin Burke-Kennedy reports that certain local authorities are paying to private developers for so-called turnkey purchases double the cost of social housing units developed directly by the public sector (“Figures indicate housing can be built by State for 50 per cent less”, News, November 18th).

This confirms an earlier report (“Building costs considerably lower than sector claims”, News, September 11th) in which Orla Hegarty, assistant professor at the UCD School of Architecture, is quoted as saying that figures she obtained from the Department of Housing “make a nonsense of what councils are paying” to private developers.

Why are local authorities overpaying?

The answer is provided by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in your most recent report. He said councils are choosing turnkeys over direct development because of the Government’s “overly bureaucratic approval, tendering and value-for-money requirement” on local authority-led projects.

This is a fascinating insight. One might think that local authorities are capable of handling bureaucracy but we are asked to believe that they are dissuaded from direct development because they find unappealing the prospect of dealing with the bureaucracy of central government.

Even better, the response of local authorities to the unappetising prospect of proving value for money on local authority construction projects is to pay twice the public cost to a private developer.

You really could not make this up. –Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.