Monday 19 May 2008

Dublin private-public housing plans collapse

Dublin City Council confirmed today that plans to build thousands of housing units in partnership with developer Bernard McNamara, have collapsed.

The six public-private partnership (PPP) projects were worth over €900 million. The council said it was looking at new funding options following the announcement that McNamara Construction are not to proceed with the regeneration plans.

"Current economic climate and the substantial changes that have taken place in the residential housing sector recently, have rendered these projects unviable, from the private partner's perspective, as the PPP concept was partly based on the sale of private units to fund the cost of new social and affordable units being provided free to Dublin City Council," said the council in a statement.

"Dublin City Council s priority now is its tenants and the City Council will explore its options for regenerating these areas and providing the social and affordable housing for its tenants," it added.

The largest affected project is the €265 million redevelopment of St Michael's Estate in Inchicore, which has been in planning since 2001. Seven of the 11 tower blocks have already been demolished ahead of the planned project.

The €180 million regeneration of O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7, for which contracts had been signed, is also affected as are similar projects on Dominic Street, ConventLands in Sean McDermott Street, and Infirmary Road, also in Inchicore.

Public Private Partnerships were adopted by Dublin City Council as a way of modernising its public housing stock. The Partnership process was based upon the council developing its land bank using the private partner's finance,arising from the sale of the remaining apartments to the general public, and their development expertise to deliver high quality, mixed-tenure, sustainable neighbourhoods.

"We will be meeting immediately with the three Regeneration Boards involved in St Michael's Estate, O'Devaney Gardens and Dominic Street to explore all options and put an alternative plan in place that will deliver the social housing we need in these areas," said Ciaran McNamara, assistant City manager, Dublin City Council.

"It is possible that the City Council could invite Tenders to develop Phase 1 of St Michael s Estate immediately, where we already have planning permission for 138 new social homes. We already plan to put a proposal to the July meeting of Dublin City Council to demolish four vacant blocks in O'Devaney Gardens and if approved, we will go to Tender to get them demolished," he added.

Mr McNamara said the remaining projects would have to be examined with a view to developing the most appropriate action.

"The regeneration of these five areas is very important to the City Council and we will be using our best endeavours to see how best it can be achieved. "While this is a setback we could do without, the City Council is confident we will be still able to provide high quality social and affordable housing, possibly over a longer time span," said Mr McNamara.

Opposition parties this afternoon described the collapse of the public-private partnerships as a blow to people living in the affected areas.

The Labour Party said that Dublin City council must ensure that a new plan is put in place so that the much-needed social housing and community facilities are still provided.

Fine Gael also called on the council to redouble its efforts to find the finance necessary to make sure that the regeneration plans get back on track.

The party's housing spokesman Terence Flanagan called on the Government to re-examine direct provision of social and affordable units to ensure that the most vulnerable in Dublin have access to proper housing.

Separately, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Government should step into the gap created by the loss of McNamara builders to ensure that the housing units were built.

"A change in Government policy is required to ban the use of Public Private Partnerships for such basic requirements as public housing projects,” said Ó Snodaigh

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