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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 8 December, 2019

Housing list families offered chance to build own homes in first-of-its-kind new project

Interested families must be willing to put in the hours on site, or nominate someone to do so.

FIVE FAMILIES WILL be offered the opportunity to build their own homes and boost their employment prospects in the process as part of a groundbreaking new project planned for south Co Dublin.

“We want people to discover their inner builder, and to discover they have these skills,” Niall Martin, one of the organisers of the scheme, told

Interested applicants must be on the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council housing list, and willing to put in construction site hours for around a year.

At the end of the process, it’s planned, they’ll own their own home – and they’ll have picked up enough skills to find further employment and help support their families in years to come.

Home Grown Homes 

Martin teamed up with two respected architects for the project, known as Home Grown Homes. A site for the five houses, in the Shankill area, has already been identified by the team, and around 100 applications for the housing co-operative have already been received.

An information evening takes place this evening, and Martin said there was still time to apply to be part of the project (you’ll find contact details at the bottom of this article).

“What we’re trying to achieve with the information meeting is to try and shake things out a little bit because it requires an awful lot of commitment to build a house.

It takes an awful lot of work … it takes an awful lot of turning up on time at 8 o’clock in the morning on a building site. We want to make sure people know what’s involved and stick with it.

houses1 Source: Home Grown Homes

Habitat for Humanity  

Martin, who lives in the Shankill area, came up with the idea while working on a Habitat for Humanity project in Belfast – building homes in a predominantly loyalist area along one of the peace walls.

Along with discovering new skills of his own, he also experienced first hand the positive effect the project had on the community.

It’s absolutely achievable for anyone to be able to pick up a hammer, measure a straight line and help build a house under expert supervision. It’s empowering for people.

As he developed the project, Martin teamed up with Leitrim-based architect Dominic Stevens, who designed and built his own three-bedroom home for around €25,000. Another respected architect, Claire McManus, has come on board as the assigned certifier.

‘I didn’t want charity’ 

If successful, it’s hoped the scheme can be replicated by other councils around the country as a way to help local families get off housing lists.

Said Martin:

“The whole idea behind this was I didn’t want charity and I didn’t want philanthropy.

I wanted, basically, the cost of this project to be very precise – to be audited so that this could be replicated in another local authority area, where the authority may have small sites that people who are on the housing list could build on.

He’s been amassing building materials for the last number of years – seeking out the best prices on everything from flooring to windows.

“They’re all stacked and ready to go,” he explained. “We’ve kind-of worked backwards to work with the materials that we have and to work them into the scheme in a coherent way so everything looks like a normal estate.”

It’s envisaged that a foreman and project manager will be assigned to the Shankill project via a scheme known as the Local Training Initiative, run by local training board the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB.

And while nothing’s set in stone as yet, the site has already been through a pre-planning process. The design for the house (see above) is also ready to go.

“The land is owned by the local authority,” Martin said.

It’s up to the co-operative members to then negotiate with the council to get that site whether it be on a long term lease or sold over to them.

And there’ll be no financial cost to the families who make up the co-operative until the builds are complete – at which point, it’s planned, mortgages will be arranged. It’s planned that bridging finance will be arranged to cover costs for specialist tradespeople and other outlays, until that point.

The scheme’s quantity surveyor, according to Martin, has told them they can build a unit for €60,000, “and even if that stretches to €80,000 it’s still €100,000 cheaper than can be built anywhere else”.

The reason is that the site will be cheap, there’s a lot of labour cut out because we’re working with volunteers, and also a lot of the materials were acquired at very low prices – so you’re able to build a lot cheaper.

shutterstock_303640988 Source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Participants in the scheme will be better candidates for a mortgage as a result of the skills they’ve picked up over their intensive year-long apprenticeship, it’s hoped. The small loan-to-value ratio of their mortgages should make them a reasonable bet too, as far as lenders are concerned.

He explained:

The site will be as much a learning site as much as it is a building site – and those key people, the foreman and the project manager, will be passing on their skills so people are learning along the way.

Ahead of the meeting tonight, Martin’s keen to encourage as diverse a group as possible to apply, stressing that families with disabled members, lone parents and members of minority communities should consider taking part.

A lone mother, for example, who might need to carry out school runs in the morning and early afternoon, could nominate a family member to put in the hours on the site “in that way there could be brothers and sisters and mums and dads participating – and everyone gets a Safe Pass and a manual handling course to allow them to work on the site”.

Martin added that families who took part in the project would have to sign up to stipulations agreeing that the finished house couldn’t be placed onto the open market for a quick profit – however, it’s planned the owners will be allowed to leave the homes to family members in their wills (there’ll be more detail on this at the information meeting).

“It’s absolutely within the power of every local authority to manage a scheme like this if they wish to,” he insisted.

And as for the families selected to take part in the scheme:

It’s empowering. It’s something they can take real pride in.

Note: Anyone interested in finding out more can contact Niall Martin via email at 

Read: Local councils to pay up-front rent to private owners of derelict houses >

Read: Over 10,000 people waiting over 10 years for a home in the capital >

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