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Minister to meet with developers and Council to discuss €600k 'affordable' homes

The Journal reported in June around fears about how ‘affordable’ housing at Poolbeg in Dublin would be delivered.

The old Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, Dublin 4
The old Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, Dublin 4
Image: Sam Boal

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’Brien is to meet stakeholders this month over the redevelopment of the Irish Glass Bottle site amid concerns over the potential price tags for units at the new suburb in Dublin 4.

The Journal reported in June around fears about how ‘affordable’ housing at Poolbeg in would be delivered, with one council official saying the affordable homes could end up costing as much as €600,000 per unit. 

The 37-acre Poolbeg site in Ringsend is one of the last large-scale pieces of development land left in Dublin city with up to 3,800 homes planned for what has been described as a ‘new suburb’ for the city. 

A deal was reached in June between Ronan Group Real Estate, Oaktree Capital Management, Lioncor Developments and the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) on the development of homes there after the consortium was selected in 2019 to redevelop the site. 

Planning permission to build the first 600 units at the site was lodged in July. 

O’Brien is said to want to address the issue of affordability at the site and will discuss the redevelopment at a meeting between his Department, Dublin City Council and the consortium later this month. 

O’Brien, meanwhile, is under fire over plans to exempt a large number of developments from a key provision of his ‘Housing for All’ plan. 

The Business Post reported on Sunday last that the Government could lose out on up to 10,000 affordable and social homes from developers after it was confirmed that a last-minute exemption was granted over fears of legal challenges. 

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, developers currently need to use 10% of zoned residential land for social and affordable homes.

That requirement is increasing from 10% to 20% and will now also include provision for affordable and cost-rental housing, however it will not apply to developers who bought land between 2015 and 2021.

The Government has included a sunset clause in its housing plan, which means from 2026 all developers will be obliged to provide affordable homes, but those who secure planning permission within the next five years will still be exempt. 

O’Brien said the decision to exempt the land from the new measures to promote affordable housing delivery was made on foot of “very strong advice from the department”. 

Social Democrats spokesperson for Housing Cian O’Callaghan TD has called on O’Brien to explain why he didn’t seek legal advice over the exemption. 

Cuckoo Funds 014 Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien Source: Sasko Lazarov

The redevelopment of Poolbeg falls under the old 10% requirement but under an agreement between the Council and former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney an additional 650 affordable homes are to be built at Poolbeg. 

Dublin City Council’s head of housing Brendan Kenny said in June that the local authority will enter negotiations with the developers to discuss how the social and affordable units will be delivered. 

“The overall deal hasn’t been worked out but no development can commence until there’s an agreement on that 15% [affordable housing]” he said. 

“It’s hugely important to deliver housing in the Dublin area at the moment, particularly affordable and social and we’ve every confidence they will be delivered,” said Kenny.

He said however that house prices in the Dublin 4 area create a tension around what exactly affordable looks like and said the units could cost at least €600,000. 

At the time Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan said O’Brien’s Department needed to confirm the funding for the affordable units and what the tenure type is going to be.

MinO’Brien previously told The Journal he not could comment specifically on Poolbeg but said €600,000 per unit is not affordable. 

“I haven’t seen the plans yet, I can’t comment on any specific planning application…but I want affordable homes, €600,000 is not affordable and I think anyone would understand that €600,000 is not affordable,” he said. 

O’Brien previously declined to say if he would need to intervene as Minister should the developers attach this price tag to these units, a move several sources had indicated will be necessary as the development moves ahead. 

O’Brien’s own Affordable Housing Bill which was approved by Cabinet in May caps the cost of an ‘affordable home’ in Ireland at a maximum of €450,000, in Dublin City and Dún Laoghaire.

It’s understood that the Poolbeg consortium could propose a deal to the Council and the Department of Housing over the delivery of the affordable units at Poolbeg in the coming weeks. 

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Sources have indicated that one possibility being explored is using a cost-rental model for the 650 ‘affordable’ units instead of putting them on the open market. 

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin O’Broin had called for O’Brien to hold a meeting of stakeholders when it put forward a motion asking the Government to intervene at Poolbeg. 

“What we need to see is Darragh O’Brien, Paschal Donohoe and Eamon Ryan all at that meeting,” O’Broin told The Journal

“NAMA owns 20% of the development, we’d like to see their interest transferred to Dublin city Council, Paschal Donohoe would have to agree to that. 

“The Department of Transport is putting in €30 million to €40 million in infrastructure at Poolbeg so Eamon Ryan needs to be at the table for that and what this meeting needs to do is ensure the delivery of genuinely affordable homes at prices of €250,000 or less for local people.

“The Ministers need to talk tough to get a good deal for the local community,” said O’Broin. 

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