Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Ceisteanna (28)

Joan Collins


28. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a proposal by a group, details supplied, will be supported as a pilot scheme; if the land will be taken out of Dublin City Council's land initiative proposal; and if funds from capital expenditure in budget 2019 will be provided. [27060/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Housing)

I ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a proposal by the St. Michael's regeneration group will be supported as a pilot scheme, if the land will be taken out of Dublin City Council’s land initiative proposal, and if funds from capital expenditure in budget 2019 will be provided.

The housing land initiative, HLI, includes the regeneration of a number of significant development sites on lands in the ownership of Dublin City Council, including St. Michael's Estate site in Inchicore. Feasibility studies on the sites, which were presented to and passed by the elected members of Dublin City Council on 9 January 2017, included the council’s agreed optimum mix of 30% social, 20% affordable and 50% private homes on these lands. The studies also agreed the methodology for community consultation. The council is staggering the procurement process for the sites and a project board, including representation from my Department, and individual project teams have been set up and are working to progress the HLI programme.

As part of this Government’s reform of the Irish housing system, it is clear that we need a third sector to complement social and private market housing delivery. That is why the development of a new cost rental sector is so strategically important. Delivery of cost rental homes into the market at scale will make a sustainable impact on housing affordability, national competitiveness and the enhancement and liveability of our cities as places to live and work.

My Department and I remain committed to working with Dublin City Council and other councils to ensure we make the delivery of this model a reality. To advance this, we are learning from a pilot project in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and the detailed examination of similar models operating elsewhere. We are also working with the European Investment Bank and other key stakeholders. Dublin City Council, my Department and the National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, have carried out detailed modelling and financial appraisal on the St. Michael's Estate site to assess its suitability for a significant cost rental development. The work of that multidisciplinary team is progressing well and this will be of significant assistance in rolling out a broader cost rental programme across Dublin and certain other large urban areas.

I am glad to see that there is some progress on this. What is the Minister's thinking on this? The council has to make a key decision on this site, with the community. The regeneration team is looking for 300 houses to be built on the site as a practical reality from a sustainability point of view - 150 local authority houses and 150 on the cost rental model. They have to be taken out of the land initiative. There is general support for that now among the different parties, including Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Independents etc. I believe the council will have an emergency motion soon to take St. Michael's and use it as a pilot scheme.

It is hoped that it will be moved into other local authority, OPW and State lands to tackle the issue of affordability and allowing people access to security of tenure.

There is much interest in the St. Michael’s site because it provides opportunities to deliver cost rental, affordable homes close to the city centre, close to key infrastructure, such as transport, and close to where people will want to live and work. It can do that in a way where people who are not able to qualify for social housing, but also cannot get access to the private rental market, will then be able to live in a community. We also want to ensure people from the community can live there too.

I have met with two different representative groups and have been on the site. Some fantastic work has already happened with Richmond Barracks and Goldenbridge cemetery. There are challenges facing the school in terms of some of the situations in which some of the children find themselves. There are also 52 new living with care homes which have been delivered. Much is happening at the site. There is a great opportunity to provide cost rental accommodation at scale there. That will add further improvements for those people coming to live in the area.

However, I have a problem with the level of ambition coming from the community, namely the proposal to limit the development to 300 homes. I have said to the two representative groups that we have a housing shortage and an affordability challenge. These issues are coming together in an acute way in Dublin city. The idea that the St. Michael’s site would only have 300 new homes delivered on it is disappointing. The site can take more public housing and more affordable homes to rent without impacting on the level of ambition for social housing provision. We are working with several different stakeholders to see what exactly that model will look like and what would the affordable rents mean for people moving into these houses.

Is the Minister saying the public land on St. Michael's Estate will be used for public, cost rental and affordable homes? Will no private housing be built on that site? This is the key point for people in the area. This is public land. It is an asset to the State which can be paid back to the State over the next 30 years if it is set up and delivered properly. I believe it can be. I know there was a proposal for 300 homes in this area. While I accept density is an issue, there is also sustainability within projects which has to be taken on board, as well as amenities and people wanting to live in the area. The residents and the regeneration team will negotiate with the housing officer in Dublin City Council.

Will this public land be used for public housing, social and local authority housing, cost rental and affordable homes?

Every time we talk about fixing our broken housing sector, we talk about doing it in a way that does not make the mistakes of the past. That is why we always talk about a mixture of tenure on any site. It is the right way to go to have social and affordable homes and private homes on the same site. We know on the St. Michael's site that we can accommodate all three with a much greater proportion of social and affordable than had previously been envisaged. That is what we are trying to achieve.

In Thornton Hall we already have 74 social housing units. We have to bear that in mind as well. We also have great amenities there. There is a senior citizens’ complex, Richmond Barracks, which I want to go back and look at properly, Goldenbridge cemetery and a sports centre. I want to work with the local community groups so they can see the ambition we have. I do not believe going higher than 300 units will have the type of impact some people fear it will. We can go for a higher density in a way that will provide accommodation for, say, singles or couples starting off a family together. Not every home that we build has to be the same size because people are at different stages of their lives.

If we use some of the new design standards which I introduced at the end of last year, we can get more than 300 homes on that site and a greater proportion of affordable cost rental homes. The work we are doing is around the financial model. Can we build something to ensure the rents are affordable, not just tomorrow but for the next 20 years? It is not simple but we can do it because it has been done elsewhere.