Tuesday 20 May 2008

Regeneration still a priority, says Cowen

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said other developers may be approached to build social housing in Dublin following the collapse of the five public-private partnership (PPP) programmes yesterday.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach acknowledged that the collapse of the planned projects was a setback for those communities who have been working with Dublin City Council to devise regeneration for their areas.

"There is continued commitment by the city council to prioritise the prospect of regeneration for these communities despite the fact that this setback has occurred," the Taoiseach said.

"It may involve going to other people who have indicate or expressed an interest in taking up PPP involvement at that stage to see if there is any other developer who may be available to proceed where this developer has decided not to proceed," he added.

A meeting between Dublin City Council and the Department of the Environment over the collapse of the five social housing programmes is expected to take place over the next few days.

Dublin City Council officials are expected to urge the department to provide funding for social housing programmes following the collapse of plans to build thousands of housing units when the developer withdrew from the scheme.

Citing "current economic climate and the substantial changes" in the housing sector, Dublin City Council said yesterday that plans for the €900 million regeneration of St Michael’s Estate, O’Devaney Gardens, Dominic Street, Convent Lands in Sean MacDermot Street, and Infirmary Road were "unviable".

The council confirmed that developer Bernard McNamara had pulled out of five public-private partnership (PPP) schemes, worth a total of €900 million.

In a letter to the council confirming his withdrawal from the projects, Mr McNamara attributed his decision to the "adversely changed circumstances" of the housing market, new guidelines forcing developers to build larger apartments and new energy regulations. A number of PPP schemes involving rival developers have not proceeded either, he pointed out.

In a statement, the council blamed the current economic situation and "substantial changes" in the housing market for making the projects unviable.

It says it will now explore the options available for regenerating the project areas, but admitted it will take longer than planned to provide the social and affordable housing.

Assistant Dublin city manager Ciarán McNamara said today the council had not ruled out going back to the second bidder on the project to discuss building the homes.

He said McNamara had bid for the scheme at a time when there was a "very strong, reliable and buoyant housing market” and that these conditions had changed.

"Let’s be realistic here. The main reasons for the projects not going ahead at this stage is that we don’t have a strong residential property market and when you are using this process and the market changes, well obviously from Bernard McNamara's perspective these projects became unviable. But that doesn’t stop us from going back to the market at this stage.”

Ciaran McNamara told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the options included the PPP route or the council building the housing units itself.

“If we are going down the traditional route of building the houses ourselves, that comes from our capital allocation from Government and it would possibly take a slightly longer period of time. But our guarantee is that we’re working with the regeneration board to make this happen and to make it happen as soon as possible.”

Much of the existing run-down stock of council housing at the five locations has already been demolished and tenants are waiting to be rehoused. The demolition of a further four blocks at O'Devaney Gardens is to go ahead next month.



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