Council Briefs: Capping Student Housing, Oversight of Homeless Services, and More

Unequal Housing

The next city development plan could cap how much “transient” accommodation is allowed in neighbourhoods, said Deputy City Planner Deirdre Scully, at a housing committee meeting on 13 January.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh said the plan should clearly define what counts as too much transient accommodation, like student housing, hotels, or co-living. (At the moment, the plan doesn’t have a clear definition.)

“We are not building communities in Dublin 8 we are building cash cows,” said MacVeigh at the meeting.

The plan can define that, said Scully, by email afterwards. It can set out what is overconcentration of particular uses, and where it has a negative impact, she said.

The development plan is the planning bible for the city. Drawing it up is one of councillors’ key jobs.

But some councillors at the meeting said that they were disappointed that important aspects of the current plan, including building heights and minimum apartment sizes, were superseded by national guidelines.

“It is extremely disappointing that the minister with a stroke of a pen can override the most important aspects of our plan in relation to heights and density,” said independent Councillor Cieran Perry.

Scully said that the new plan will have to take the national guidelines into account and won’t be able to overturn them.

But she said, there’s lots more that councillors will get to decide.

“The city development plan contains hundreds of policies and objectives about all aspects of the city and future growth,” said Scully, by email.

Dublin City Council has started consultation for the next plan, which will be in play from 2022 to 2028, and is currently asking people to have a say.

Scrutinising Homeless Services

Why doesn’t Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) publish inspection reports, annual reports, and accounts of its spending? Councillors at the recent full council meeting said they wanted to know.

Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan asked why the DRHE doesn’t publish inspection reports for the homeless hostels it says it has inspected.

Addresses of hostels may be confidential but a redacted report should be published, he said.

DRHE should also publish detailed accounts of its spending on emergency accommodation, said Geoghegan. “There has to be some accountability.”

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner asked why DRHE has not published a full breakdown of its spending since 2016.

The costs have not been published because of Covid-19, said Dublin City Council housing manager Brendan Kenny. “I think people realise there has been a pandemic in the last seven months.”

The DRHE had to prioritise providing services for homeless people during the pandemic, he said.

In July 2019, independent councillor Anthony Flynn highlighted the difficulties he had trying to scrutinise reports and work out where money was going.

Horner said that DRHE has also not published any annual reports since 2016 and wondered why. “Will we get an annual report soon?”

She asked for an update on a report into standards that she says had been due to be published last March.

“Any information that is lacking there, we will get all that information as soon as we can do it,” said Kenny.

The emphasis in the last year has been on delivering services to homeless people, said Kenny. “There are 3,000 people in hostels and most are quite happy with the accommodation they have.”

Control and the Glass Bottle Site

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey asked if the council is doing enough to pursue social and affordable housing at the old Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg.

A recent article in the Sunday Business Post said that the council lost out on land there because of a row with the Department of Housing.

“This is our biggest single chance to deliver social and affordable housing in that part of Dublin,” said Lacey.

Dublin City Council and the Department of Housing are committed to buying 15 percent of the homes at Poolbeg “subject to funding and value for money considerations”, said Dublin City Council housing manager Brendan Kenny.

That commitment is included in the plan for the area, the Docklands Strategic Development Zone, he said.

The site was sold recently and he expects to hear from the new owner soon and to get working on that agreement, he said.

Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan said that the council had brokered a deal with NAMA, which previously controlled the site, to get land at the Glass Bottle site.

The council had negotiated a good price, “a significant discount from the then market rate”, he said.

Officials brought that agreement to the Department of Housing to get funding, he said. But “we weren’t able to get the agreement of the Department […] within the timescale that NAMA gave us”, he said.

Time ran out and NAMA placed the land on the open market, said Keegan. “Personally I was very disappointed because had we owned the site we would have had far greater control over the development.”

The commitment contained in the SDZ still applies, he said.

[Correction: This article was updated at 20 January at 6.46pm add that scrutiny of homeless services took place at the full monthly council meeting and not the housing committee as previously reported.]

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Author:

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

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