Thank you for joining me for your weekly edition of Housing Crisis Update. For the podcast version, click here.
OTT in Cork
Rob McNamara at the Evening Echo reports on concerns around infrastructure and services to sustain developments in Cork approved under the Strategic Housing Development scheme.
In the third quarter of last year, almost 30,000 homes were granted planning permission across the country, an increase of 62% on the previous year. Instrumental to the increase has been the scheme that allows applications for plans of more than 100 units to go directly to An Bord Pleanála.
This allows developers to bypass local planning departments.
But since the scheme was introduced eighteen months ago, a number of councillors in Co. Cork have raised concerns that huge developments are being given permission without proper infrastructure in a number of towns including Bishopstown, Grange, Midleton and the Cobh municipal district.
O’Mahony Developments has been granted permission from An Bord Pleanála to build 174 homes in Glounthaune, despite the council-developed local area plans stipulating that no more than 400 homes should be built in the area before 2022. Planning has already been given for more than 400 homes.
Padraig O’Sullivan of FF saying it was “an example of how An Bord Pleanála’s new powers are over the top”.
The new normal
Mark O’Brien at Dublin Live reports on reverberations from the former Housing Agency chief’s claims last week that the level of homelessness in Ireland is normal.
Deputy Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, Brendan Kenny, said he disagreed with Conor Skehan's claims, which he has repeated several times; mostly recently on Claire Byrne Live.
Mr Kenny said the council were looking at all options in an attempt to build more homes, including rezoning industrial sites and rapid and modular building; meaning estates could be built in six months instead of eighteen.
Also reacting to Mr Skehan’s remarks, playwright Emmet Kirwan said that it was “worth pointing out that if [he was] willing to discuss these views on a national platform, [Conor Skehan] has no doubt done so privately, [and was] not been challenged by members of the Irish intelligentsia, his social circle or politicians … a scary thought."
Friendly ghost estate
RTE’s North West Correspondent Eileen Magnier reports on the first council housing developments in Donegal for more than a decade; opening four recently completed developments in a photo opportunity with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who turned the sod on two more.
The completed schemes included a ghost estate, left unfinished after the crash and completed by the council, which still needs housing for an estimated 900 families.
All that is solid
Highland Radio reports that as part of his visit to Donegal, the Housing Minister confirmed plans are in motion for the rollout of a mica redress scheme. Mica is a silicate material which was used in the building of thousands of homes in Donegal and Mayo, a high content of which causes homes to literally crumble to dust.
With up to 4,800 dwellings affected in Donegal alone, the total cost of the redress scheme could be up to 1.3bn. The cost per house is comparable with the amount paid under the Pyrite Remediation Scheme, which has been estimated at 70,000 per property.
Garden city of tomorrow
Laura Lyne reporting over the weekend on campaigners in Dublin who staged what they called a plant-in; installing spring bulbs in their community garden; in the hope it would be saved from development.
The Weaver Square allotments off Cork Street in Dublin’s city centre are earmarked to provide twenty-three social housing units, with residents told to down tools on New Year’s Eve. In a statement, campaigners asked the council to “consider the value” of the garden for The Liberties, where the amount of green space per resident is an average of 70 sq. centimetres; the smallest in the city.
Big brother is viewing
Kevin O’Neill at Breaking News reports private landlords are seeking more personal information from prospective tenants, including PPS numbers, photo ID, and even links to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn social media profiles.
While not illegal, tenancy protection charity Threshold has issued a warning about the practice, which was explicitly ruled out during the initial phase of the letting process by the Data Protection Commission, in a statement made last November.
Cathy Finnegan, communications executive with Threshold, warned that many people are now being excluded from the rental process with a “series of thinly-veiled questions that loosely translate as ‘no housing assistance payment’.”
Old buildings, new ideas
Limerick Chamber economist Dr Catriona Cahill writing for the Independent makes the case for collaborative leadership in the city as a model for the rest of Ireland, while noting it still faces challenges in relation to housing supply.
Just like all other Irish cities, Limerick has a shortage of suitable urban accommodation. This shortage is unlikely to be addressed by property developers anytime soon given their claims of poor margins due to high construction costs.
“As Europe's most westerly Georgian city,” Cahill writes, “many buildings in Limerick's historic quarter have proven notoriously difficult and expensive to renovate.”
Dr Cahill points out that the 'Living Cities Initiative', introduced in 2013 to provide tax incentives for such renovation had attracted only 113 applicants nationwide, as of June 2018. Limerick has tried to buttress this with money from the Urban Regeneration Development Fund to renovate individual floors of historic buildings. It remains to be seen whether this approach will pay off with higher occupancy rates.
Orange is the new orange
A site previously slated for Ireland’s first 'super prison' is likely to be developed for housing.
Costing €51m since it was bought in 2005, the bulk of the site at Thornton Hall in north County Dublin is to be offered to the new Land Development Agency; set up by the Government to build 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years across the country.
Reaction to the decision has been positive, with penal reform campaigners welcoming reports that plans for the 2,200-person “super-prison” have been abandoned, and an Irish Times editorial describing the prison as “an example of political grandiosity and official backside-covering”.
Another editorial in the Irish Examiner points to objections made by senior politicians to housing developments in their constituencies.
Despite our housing crisis, politicians seem all too ready to object to developments, name-checking former Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and An Taoiseach himself.
“They “should find the courage to say “no” more often,” the editorial says, “leadership can be bruising.”
Love Ireland, hate racism
Lois Kapila reporting for the Dublin Inquirer discusses the level of racism in council-run properties across the capital.
A recent European Union found that levels of racist violence against black people in Ireland were among the highest in Europe.
At a meeting last Thursday, Dublin city councillors and other members on the council’s housing committee heard the story of a Ghanaian woman in her 70s who gets regular abuse when she goes out.
Councillor Éilis Ryan of the Workers’ Party said that getting people who were born in Ireland, and people who weren’t, to campaign together on issues around the housing crisis in local areas would be “a big thing”.
Leader 1 : People 0
Christina Finn at the journal.ie reports from the Dáil on the first Leaders’ Questions of 2019. An Taoiseach faced down other politicians on the issues defining the year so far including Brexit, nurses’ strike action and the housing crisis.
Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins raised the issue of homelessness saying that government policy was making things worse. In reply An Taoiseach said “we are hard at work as a government to deal with this,” claiming that supply of housing and apartments is on the rise.
Those Laffer curves suit you, Leo.