When Big Funds Control Private Housing Estates, Residents Get Little Say in How Their Community Is Run

On a recent Friday evening, a snowstorm blew through the Cedarview housing estate in Northwood just north of Santry and Ballymun. There is no bus route through Northwood and most residents have cars.

There are cars parked along the side of the road, some straddling the pavement. Outside some homes, cars park across drives, blocking in second and third cars. Orange cones lie tipped over in the wind.

Amid the chaos are at least 25 empty parking spaces with signs explaining that they are visitor parking for the Bridgefield Apartments, a complex opposite. Clamping is in operation, the sign warns.

Inside 77 Cedarview, Jimmy Grisewood and his wife Roisín Grisewood, sit at a kitchen island with a large newspaper advert for the development and the brochure.

Many of the homes in Cedarwood, and Bridgefield Apartments, are owned by two big funds and controlled by a single owners’ management company (OMC).

The OMC brought in the clamping for the visitor spaces in January, says Jimmy Grisewood.

Now a group of residents fear that the OMC will next roll out clamping further across all of Cedarview. It could do more too. At Cedarview, the estate rules set by the OMC go beyond those around parking, to whether or not residents can hang out washing or light up a barbecue.

And there’s not much that residents can do to shape the rules, or block the introduction of ones they disagree with. Renters don’t get a seat or vote on OMCs. Homeowners do, but are in a minority so face being outvoted by the funds, says Grisewood.

“The OMC is not working for the residents,” he says. “We will never have control of the rules.”

A spokesperson for DWS, which manages the fund that owns the homes, declined to comment on queries about parking issues.

The property management company Wyse, which looks after day-to-day management of the estate including cleaning communal areas and cutting grass, also didn’t respond to email queries.

The Parking Problems

Manus McLoughlin lives in a five-bedroom house at Cedarview.

A teacher in a local school, he shares with four other teachers and they all have cars, he says on the phone.

Together, the housemates pay almost €3,000 in rent each month, he says, but McLoughlin is definitely not complaining.

It’s the best houseshare he has had in Dublin, he says. The homes are well built and high-quality and the agents are quick to fix problems, he says.

When the group applied to rent the house, they each had to provide documents including proof of employment, he says. “It was a thorough application process.”

After they secured the rental home, they also each gave their car registration details to Occu, the letting agent, he says.

Each house only has two designated car-parking spaces in the drive. But “they were aware that there was a surplus of cars”, he says. Parking will be a major problem if clamping is introduced, he says.

Róisín Grisewood says her family has enough parking, but she is concerned for her renting neighbours who don’t.

Grisewood also wonders what she and her husband will do if they want to arrange a family gathering. “We would love to have one in May.”

But they can’t, she says, as there is no parking anywhere in Northwood. If it were the city centre, they would be able to buy discs to give to their guests, she says.

Visitor parking spaces at Cedarview. Photo by Laoise Neylon.

Another resident, Cherie Bacon, says she has a disabled daughter who needs to have an operation soon, and she will need to use the whole drive then. “I’ll need the drive to myself to get her wheelchair in and out,” she says.

That means her husband will have nowhere to park, she says. And her adult daughter works shifts in the airport and wants to get a car, but can’t because of the parking issue, she says.

Many homeowners in Cedarview are in favour of clamping, she says. But most residents overall are opposed, she says, it’s just that renters don’t have a vote.

Bacon thinks the homeowners who favour clamping are mistaken. “I think it will devalue your house,” she says.

Since clamping in housing estates is unusual in Dublin, she thinks most people wouldn’t want to live in an estate where there is clamping, she says. “It’s just going to be horrible. What happens when my friends call?”

Patricia Roe, a Social Democrats councillor, says “the residents of Cedarview, whether they are owner-occupiers or renters, are between a rock and a hard place”.

Rents for the houses are too high for most families, she says, so it’s not surprising that there are groups of tenants sharing, with more than two cars.

Providing proper public transport could be a solution, says Roe, and without it parking issues in Northwood are just going to escalate.

“Ten years ago, government said there would be a Metro stop at Northwood to service the hundreds of apartments being built, yet today residents still don’t even have a direct bus service,” she says.

McLoughlin said it’s a major problem that there are no public transport links near Cedarview.

It is quite a long walk from Ballymun, and some people might worry that it isn’t safe to do that walk at night, he says.

Setting Other Rules

The Cedarview estate is a private development, with the roads and shared areas managed by a property management company, Wyse, on behalf of the OMC.

Bacon says she wouldn’t have bought in Cedarview if she understood what that meant. “Be very, very careful,” she says. “Get your solicitor to go through the constitution.”

The estate agent told her that private management meant that the company collects the bins and cuts the grass and things like that, she says.

She was surprised to learn that she wasn’t allowed to hang a satellite dish at the back of her house, she says.

She also got multiple emails from the property management company after she installed a pergola, a wooden structure with flower boxes and hanging decorations, in her back garden.

“I had to get my solicitor involved,” says Bacon. The pergola, she says, is not a permanent structure.

The rules of the estate also say that residents aren’t allowed to hang out washing, and that barbecues are strictly prohibited.

“If I’d have known that a management company can tell me how I live, I would never have bought in here,” says Bacon.

“You cannot relax,” she says. “It’s not comfortable. I’m from Whitehall where the neighbours looked out for each other, it’s free and easy.”

Andrew Keegan, a local representative for People Before Profit, says that one of the main problems in Cedarview is that the residents are not in control of their estate.

By law, the number of votes that a person or company has as part of an owners’ management company is directly related to how much property they own in an estate or complex.

At Cedarview, DWS Grundbestiz GMBH is the majority owner but not a resident, he says.

“There is a democratic deficit on the representative board,” says Keegan. “Some time in the near future there has to be a more democratically structured committee established.”

Bacon says that, so far, 125 people in Cedarview have signed a petition against the further roll-out of clamping.

McLoughlin, the renting school teacher at Cedarview, hopes that all parties might work together to find a solution to the parking issue.

“I feel like this could be resolved quite easily,” he says. “Is there any way we could work with the agency to come to some kind of arrangement?”

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

Reader responses

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Scorcher79
at 2 March at 20:03

This problem is endemic in Dublin& elsewhere. Short-termism& greed seem to be at d heart of it& the developers& property companies that construct&manage these homes never seem to factor in issues such as parking and allocate enough of it. It's the same mentality that allows developers to go ahead with large scale housing projects when there are no other amenities such as shops, schools or services in the area. The developers and companies responsible should be forced to make additional parking available free of charge for all residents.

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