Finally, Dublin City Council can press ahead with plans for the regeneration of Dominick Street Lower.
The new Department for Housing, Planning and Local Government recently gave the go-ahead after looking at a cost-effectiveness report from the council.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney, of Fine Gael, had promised councillors swift action on the city’s housing shortage when he addressed them at the main council meeting earlier this month.
The council’s plans for the site are pretty much complete, and it will soon put forward a planning application, giving the details.
Dick Brady, the council’s housing manager, said at the council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee meeting last Wednesday that the project will be pushed along as quickly as possible.
He expects it will be about a year before construction crews are on site.
Lands Initiative: Waiting for Coveney
At the Housing SPC meeting, Brady also said he would not be pushing on with the council’s flagship lands initiative for the time being.
The project is meant to tempt private developers to build more than 1,300 homes on council-owned lands around the city. It’s now on pause until Coveney announces his housing action plan – which is due by month’s end.
“I’m actually quite astounded that we’re holding off on this,” said Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland. “We’ve been talking about it for two years and there’s still not a crane in the sky.”
Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam, however, said the pause was a good idea.
“I understand this action plan is going to include the whole approval process in terms of procurement. It will also deal with planning,” he said. “It probably makes sense for us to hold off.”
Gilliland said the council should progress with a “social infrastructure audit” of the sites so the next month isn’t wasted.
Charlemont Street: Progress
The regeneration of the Tom Kelly flats just off Charlemont Street is on schedule, according to council officials at the meeting.
The plan calls for a new development eventually 250 apartments across five blocks (including 150 social housing units), a five-a-side pitch, a basketball court, plus offices, shops and other facilities.
St Teresa’s Gardens: Fireworks Contamination
The regeneration of St Teresa’s Gardens, near the Coombe, has been delayed because of soil contamination on the site.
Works to provide drainage, surrounding walls and the demolition of three houses were put on hold while the council waits for a report with details.
Marguerite Staunton of Dublin City Council’s housing section said the contamination has to be dealt with to prevent longer delays and increased costs further down the line.
It’s unclear what the contaminant is, but she said that it is thought to have come from a fireworks factory that was on the site before the council began built flats there in the 1940s.
Council managers say it poses no danger to the residents living in St Teresa’s Gardens.
Sinn Féin councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh said she was unhappy that councillors and the regeneration board weren’t told of the contamination sooner. “We’ve been asking for weeks what the delay is,” she said.
O’Devaney Gardens: Fire-Safety Worries
Dublin Fire Brigade and An Garda Siochana have both raised concerns with the council over the number of fires at O’Devaney Gardens.
Sinn Féin councillor for the area Janice Boylan said, “It’s gone beyond a joke now at this stage with the amount of fires that are happening up there . . . The residents are highly concerned; both the people that are left [living in the flats] and the residents surrounding the area.”
There are 10 units still occupied, and the council’s housing section is looking for alternative accommodation for the people living in them.
“It’s a deteriorating situation,” said Staunton of the housing section. “We are aware over the last few days that there have been a lot of issues.”
Independent councillor Christy Burke suggested the immediate demolition of the remaining blocks. But housing manager Brady said there are statutory provisions to follow and the process can only be sped up as much as the law allows.
He said the council’s application to demolish the blocks isn’t likely to come before councillors until October.
Brady told councillors that work on the 24 rapid-build housing units planned for Cherry Orchard is underway.
Independent Councillor Cieran Perry asked for a report on the lessons learned by the council during the construction of the 22 homes at the Poppintree site.
Even though time and costs ran over what were originally estimated, Brady said he considers the project a success.
The homes were pitched as modulars meant to house homeless families by Christmas last year. But they weren’t ready until late spring this year, and are permanent houses.
“Despite what everybody thinks here that was absolutely fast,” Brady said. “I expect that you’ll be surprised when we come back [with costs].”
The homes are supposed to be temporary accommodation for homeless families. But Ní Dhálaigh said residents are very happy there.
Perhaps too happy.
“The people who have moved into them are ecstatic, they’re absolutely over the moon,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard to get people to move out of there unless we have something better to offer them.”
United Left councillor Pat Dunne said he could see that becoming an issue too.
Though he supports the provision of high quality housing, he says these units are not the temporary, economical, quick modular housing that councillors were expecting.
“We had agreed that the rapid-build programme would be to take people out of emergency accommodation on a temporary basis,” Dunne said, “but if we have invested so much in these particular units, why would somebody want to move from one of them to less developed, inferior accommodation?”
“This was to be a short fix and it isn’t,” he says. “We have a moral dilemma.”