Delays with Housing Fund Leave Some Questioning Its Efficacy

The Dodder Public Transportation Bridge, which is yet to be built, is expected to link Sir Rogerson’s Quay in the Docklands to Ringsend, where the Dodder enters the Liffey.

The bridge won’t be like others in the area though, as it will be reserved for walking, cycling and public transport such as a potential future Luas, says a spokesperson for Dublin City Council.

The bridge is set to cost around €31.5m and it will allow for the development of 2,300 extra homes in the Poolbeg Strategic Development Zone (SDZ), says the council spokesperson.

“Without the bridge, the number of units that can be constructed is limited to 1,200 instead of the 3,500 which can be developed there,” she says.

As such the bridge is essential infrastructure for the homes and half the funding will come from a €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF).

Back in August 2016, when then Minister for Housing, Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney announced the fund, it was hoped that it would accelerate housing delivery on key development sites, provide vital infrastructure and ultimately result in more affordable homes coming onto the market.

At first, there was a stipulation that 40 percent of the homes should be sold in Dublin for less than €300,000, but that was soon watered down.

According to the Department of Housing projections for 2019 LIHAF is set to provide for around 1,934 new affordable homes in the Dubin region and a further 2,340 homes will also be sold at a discount from the market rate.

Still, some wonder whether those affordable homes will be truly affordable for average income earners and whether LIHAF is an efficient way to deliver affordable homes.

Homes Delivered by 2021

Most of the LIHAF deals in the Dublin area are still under negotiation and in some cases, construction of the infrastructure hasn’t started yet.

This is a good deal behind schedule as the Department of Housing said it had hoped to have the LIHAF deals sewn up fast, infrastructure built and 23,000 new homes delivered by 2021.

The ability of the developer to deliver homes by 2021 was one of the criteria examined by the Department of Housing when the applications for LIHAF were being assessed, according to a Department of Housing FAQ document.

The Department of Housing didn’t respond to queries sent last week about how many affordable homes LIHAF would deliver, if any would be built by 2021 and whether the scheme was a wise use of taxpayers money.

Deals Done?

A Dublin City Council spokesperson says that the council has not yet reached the planning application stage for either of its two LIHAF projects, Belmayne Main Street and the Dodder Bridge.

So “it is premature to say how many units will be delivered at less than market value,” says the spokesperson.

When LIHAF was announced in 2016 it was linked to an affordable housing scheme, promised at the time but which was never delivered.

Still, the projections contain a category for affordable housing to be delivered through “statutory/administrative schemes.”

Under that category the projections indicate 570 homes could be provided in the Dublin City Council area under LIHAF — 450 in Poolbeg and 120 in Belmayne.

A further 270 homes in Belmayne will be discounted from market price by €2,170 each, says the projections.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council’s spokesperson forwarded a link to the projections which show 300 affordable homes at Cherrywood, 330 at Shanganagh and 50 at Clay Farm.

“Affordable homes will be delivered through LIHAF as developments progress and as developers commence construction,” she says.

The affordable housing secured will be on top of the mandatory 10 percent social housing, says the spokesperson.

The council has started talks with one of the landowners in Cherrywood to ascertain the cost and location of potential LIHAF homes, she says, and will be engaging with the other landowners in Cherrywood throughout the rest of this year.

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council forwarded the projections which show 40 affordable homes will be delivered there under a statutory scheme, at Donabate and Distributor Road.

A further 2,070 homes will be discounted from the market rates by amounts of between €2500 and €5,500, it says.

South Dublin County Council didn’t respond in time for publication but according to the projections, LIHAF will result in 684 affordable homes in that local authority area.

600 of those are set to be in Adamstown, 84 are in Kilcarbery and Corkagh Grange.

The Clonburris SDZ, which is set to have an affordable housing element, also benefitted from the fund by around €3m for surface water upgrades.

Not Delivering

Sinn Féin TD and housing spokesperson, Eoin Ó Broin, says his party will publish research in the coming days examining whether LIHAF has worked.

He is calling on the new housing minister to scrap the scheme because “it doesn’t represent value for money” and “is not delivering affordability,” he says.

Ó Broin says that when the fund was first announced under Rebuilding Ireland, it had two specific purposes.

“The first was that developers who were stuck for money for infrastructure could unlock developments that wouldn’t otherwise be built,” he says. “But if you look at the developers that got the money, like Hines and Cairn and others, they are not short of any infrastructure funding,” he says.

“In fact their balance sheet, according to their annual reports, are exceptionally healthy.”

The other thing LIHAF was supposed to do was deliver affordable homes.

So far it has failed to do that too, he says. “Whether it is a 10 percent discount on market price or a €5,000 discount, none of that makes these properties affordable by any stretch of the imagination,” says Ó Broin.

The scheme would need to have been tied to a very tight definition of affordable housing which it wasn’t, he says.

Instead he suggests an easier way to deliver affordable homes. “If you had €200m, you divide that by €250,000 and that tells you how many [homes] you could build in the first tranche,” he says.

When the affordable home purchasers buy the 800 homes, the state recoups the money, he says.”You recycle the money and build another 800 homes.”

The Department of Housing didn’t respond to queries about LIHAF in time for publication.

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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