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Plan for 1,100 social and affordable houses on land bank in Blanchardstown called 'half-baked'

But could it be an answer to the housing crisis?

The lands at Damastown.
The lands at Damastown.
Image: Solidarity.

A PLAN TO build 1,100 social, and affordable houses on a landbank in Blanchardstown is being hailed as a potential template for a solution to the housing crisis.

However, there are differences over how the land will be used.

Solidarity has published a plan that would see the area turned into Damastown Village. The plan would see the land developed as a mixed community of 1,135 homes, with 50% reserved for social housing for those on the social housing waiting list and homeless families, and the remaining 50% to be offered as part of an affordable mortgage scheme.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger says that the plan could change lives. She told the Dáil earlier this month the plan should be built by Fingal County Council.

“Damastown village, if properly planned, with the additional transport infrastructure that Dublin west needs and with dedicated youth facilities and parklands, could transform the lives of thousands of people.

“Only 15% can get a mortgage. What about the other 85%? Why do we hear on Sean O’Rourke’s show that workers in Ballymun can get a mortgage for €170,000 in the Ó Cualann project but the Taoiseach thinks it is affordable for workers in Blanchardstown to pay €315,000? This could resolve that issue for many workers. Will the Taoiseach back the funding of this project and similar projects nationally, given Dublin west is just a microcosm of the national homeless crisis?”

Coppinger went on to say that local authorities should build the houses needed to tackle the country’s problems.

“The State is actually the biggest land hoarder in this country. To hoard land during a housing crisis is akin to hoarding food in a famine. A total of 13 councils did not bother to build a solitary thing in the last two years. Fingal County Council, with which the Taoiseach will be familiar, completed ten homes. Ten homes equates to 0.01% of the number needed for the 8,046 people on its housing list. The Fingal area has 22% of Dublin’s population but 35% of its homeless population, mostly in the Taoiseach’s own constituency and mine, Dublin West.”

Source: Ruth Coppinger TD/YouTube

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a TD for the area, called Coppinger’s stance that councils should build homes a “hardline ideological” one.

“Just because social housing or public housing is not built directly by a local authority does not mean that it should not count.

“All of the people moving into that housing know what it is – it is social housing run by the Iveagh Trust, an agency that has been providing housing since before the State was founded. They have secure tenancies and a subsidised rate, but because of the Deputy’s ideology, it does not count. I ask her and her supporters to consider their ideology and adopt the approach my party and the Government adopt.”

The plan

PastedImage-82757 The lands in Mulhuddart. Source: Google Maps.

The Solidarity Damastown Village plan would see 75 acres of land in north Blanchardstown turned into 835 4, 3 and 2-bedroom houses and 300 apartments.

The plan is less dense than nearby Cluid housing, with 37 units per hectare, with Solidarity promising a new community.

“We wish to not simply squeeze as many units as possible into this site, but rather to build a new community with all the necessary open space, recreational amenities and community infrastructure, mindful of the impact of the population increase would have on existing and neighbouring communities.”

Solidarity puts the cost of building at around €175 million.

PastedImage-38090

They say that the funding would come from capital investment and affordable mortgage schemes.

“If we agreed a mix of social and affordable of 50:50 and applied this to the entire development the cost would breakdown as €87,068,000 Capital investment and €87,068,000 loan from the Housing Agency for an affordable mortgage scheme.”

Those mortgages would see people in four-bedroom homes paying €797 a month on a 25-year mortgage, a move which would bring €372,996 a year into Fingal’s coffers.

The council, however, has engaged a design team to handle the lands itself. Their plan would deliver roughly the same number of homes, but the move made some councillors fear the land would be sold to private developers.

Plans to develop these lands are underway and a consultant design team have been engaged by the council to prepare a Land Management Plan for these lands which will provide for the optimal layout and future sustainable development of the lands and provide for a mixed tenure residential development with associated community facilities.

“Briefing sessions are being held with local councillors in relation to the development of the Land Management Plan. It is proposed to commence development of these lands late 2018/early 2019 in accordance with the plan.

“The plans for the development of the lands will be brought forward through the council’s normal planning and consultation processes, at which stage the full design of the scheme will be available.”

Local reaction

Locally, councillors are broadly in agreement that building should be done on the lands, but not all agree with the Solidarity plan. Councillors were shown plans on 7 December by the design team and updated on areas affecting the development.

Generally, councillors say the update was positive, but many worry about the housing mix. Green party councillor Roderic O’Gorman said he agreed with Coppinger and Solidarity councillor Matt Waine on the housing mix.

“I am strongly of the view that we need to move away from estates made up for purely private or public housing, and encourage a mix of tenure in all estates. This should be applied on the Damastown lands.

“At the same time, I don’t want to see the wholescale giveaway of publicly owned lands to private developers. The fact that the Government has proposed introducing an affordable mortgage scheme presents a potential option whereby a significant number of the homes were social housing, and the rest could be privately owned, but with residents using an affordable mortgage scheme.

I think, and hope, the council officials understand that if there is a major sell off of a large chunk of the land for purely private housing, there will be resistance across the council.

Independent councillor Tania Doyle said that any move to increase housing stock would be welcome.

“I have been to the forefront in calling for increases to the supply of housing and associated suitable infrastructure. Dublin 15 in particular has been left behind in both. So I will always welcome any increases in the supply of housing stock.”

Fianna Fáil’s Howard Mahony said he fully supported the Fingal plan, while Fine Gael’s Eithne Loftus called the Solidarity plan “half-baked”.

“I am very supportive of Fingal’s plan to develop the Damastown project. The Council are working with a group of specialists to prepare a proper plan for this site – a site that has many issues that need to be evaluated and considered before any development takes place on this site.

I will not be supporting the Socialists half baked presentation.

A further update on the site is due in the new year.

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