I don’t need to repeat the appalling homeless and social housing list statistics – they are to the fore of all Dublin City Council officials and councillors as we attempt to alleviate the suffering of those who do not have a safe, secure and appropriate place to call their home. Nor do I need to emphasise that housing supply is central to such alleviation. However, what needs recognition is that those who push populist solutions to our housing crisis often end up delaying and thwarting real possible solutions because they ignore legal parameters. Tonight’s debate on the Dublin City Council report on Priory Hall was one such example.
In 2013, after much negotiation the Department of the Environment and Local Government provided funds to DCC to manage the refurbishment of Priory Hall and a legal resolution agreement was drawn up to underpin the refurbishment. Part of this agreement was that the original balance of residential unit tenure i.e. social housing, owner-occupier and buy-to-let, be maintained. A report to this evening’s meeting sought to begin the process of unit allocation according to the 2013 agreed resolution.
The populist ultra left would like us to believe that only they have a real social conscience and that the so-called establishment doesn’t care for the ordinary man and woman. They also tend to believe that laws can be disregarded in an instant to resolve issues as they see fit. This evening they wanted to do just this and completely ignore the resolution agreed for the refurbishment of Priory Hall when they sought to change the retention of the previous housing balance in favour of almost 100% social housing.
No-one argues against the need for more social housing units however this proposal failed to recognise that mixed tenure is acknowledged as a requirement for sustainable communities and that the previous Priory Hall agreement would have to be completely re-negotiated. This would cause an immense delay and no doubt expense and would probably not succeed. Such consequences were explained to the chamber by the CEO and the DCC Law Agent.
Instead of ignoring the resolution, myself and my Labour Party colleagues sought to make timely housing gains for those in need within the parameters of the agreement. Originally, 20% of the units in Priory Hall were allocated to social housing so we sought to amend the agreement to increase this by 10% to allow for 30% or about 57 units out of 187 – a reasonable ask that has a much greater possibility of being achieved without significant delay or expense.
We also proposed that DCC would ‘retain sufficient units so as to provide an overall owner-occupier affordable housing level of 30% within the entire Priory Hall development to support those who meet the income criteria to be eligible for local authority house purchase loans‘. This proposal recognised and respected the number of owner-occupier units of the original development but argued for a targeted opportunity (38 units) for those on lower incomes to buy units designated for owner-occupiers. Again, a workable ask within the resolution parameters that will make a real difference for those lower earners (single income of under €50,000 or a joint income of no greater than €75,000).
This practicable, reasonable and workable approach won’t make the headlines but it will make a real difference to many families seeking a more secure and affordable home. It also recognises that as public representatives we have a responsibility to support the wide variety of housing requirements and to find real solutions, not populist unachievable ones, for those who need our support.