A Pure Land Grab




From top: O’Devaney Gardens, Dublin 7 in July, 2016; Cllr. Éilis Ryan


On Thursday,, Dublin City councillors will be voting on whether to reverse a motion that they themselves passed less than two months ago to ensure O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7 would not be privatised.

Dublin City Councillor Éilis Ryan writes:

Once home to 280 households, the near-empty site of O’Devaney Gardens, is one of Dublin’s most valuable, a stone’s throw from Phoenix Park, and an easy stroll to the city centre.

It had its problems in the past, but the real damage was done more recently. Since 2008 a combination of bankrupt developers and abandonment by the state have destroyed O’Devaney Gardens.

And now it has become the epicentre of attempts to privatise public land by handing it over to developers to build private housing.

Its the same story we always see with privatising valuable public assets – run down a public asset – land, in this case – say you’ve no money to build it back up, and use that as an excuse to privatise it.

We’ve seen similar giveaways of our oil and gas, our telecoms infrastructure, our bin services and our national airline. It was never going to take long before they came for our land.

So how exactly did we get to this point?

Since 2014, Dublin City Council have been making plans to get interested developers to build on the council’s land – including O’Devaney Gardens – under the Housing Land Initiative. The details of this Initiative have property developers’ fingerprints all over it.

There is no commitment that the land would be sold for what it was worth. The council and the state commit to pay for all the infrastructure required on the sites in question. And the private developer would retain all the profits on the site. All round then, a bad deal for the state – a giveaway.

But would it deliver badly needed housing?

Doubtful. The scheme proposed a mixture of social, affordable, private cost rental and privately owned housing. ‘Affordable’ housing is defined by the government as anything below €300,000 – which only the wealthiest 20% of households can get a mortgage for.

Meanwhile the cost rental scheme proposed for the site was to be private sector – meaning a massive subsidy from the state to the private landlords.

So not only did the housing land initiative radically reduce the amount of social housing on the site, it also failed to propose badly needed housing for households earning average incomes.

In July of this year the Workers’ Party tabled a motion to reverse the privatisation. It called for 100% cost rental, mixed income public housing on the site, which would target 50% of the units to those above social housing thresholds, and under which all the revenue, and the land, would remain in public hands.

The motion passed on July 25. It was a resounding blow against those attempting to hand over O’Devaney Gardens over to for-profit developers.

Almost immediately, Dublin City Council began issuing warnings that the proposal was unimplementable. Off the back of these warnings, councillors who originally backed the plan have reversed their support for the motion.

The methods used since to reverse the democratic decision of the council have been underhand to say the least. Two meetings about the matter, including one with Minister Simon Coveney, have been held without the Workers’ Party – the proposer of the motion in question – being invited or notified.

Dublin City Council have continued to make plans for their original privatisation plan in spite of the motion passed by councillors in July.

And most recently, last Thursday, it was announced that a motion would be put forward to reverse the original council decision. Almost all of the signatories are councillors who originally voted to keep the land public. This is highly unusual.

How much can really have changed since July, that this is justified?

The councillors in question say they have learned that our proposal does not meet national and local planning guidelines for achieving a social mix.

However, our proposal specifically states that the public housing must be mixed income.

By contrast, in many “Public Private” developments, the ‘private’ portion of the housing is let out to residents on Housing Assistance Payment – so, in reality, no mixed income is achieved.

They also say our proposal is financially unrealistic– but the council already borrows money from the Housing Finance Agency to lend mortgages – why not also to build?

In reality, its clear these excuses are all just that – excuses. There’s no doubt that Fine Gael don’t want to deliver public housing – but Fine Gael do not run Dublin City Council.

At least, I didn’t think they did.

Éilis Ryan is Dublin City Councillor for The Workers’ Party in Dublin’s North Inner City.


44 thoughts on “A Pure Land Grab

  1. Vote Rep #1

    I was under the impression that not having ghettos was a good idea. That mixing public & private meant that you wouldn’t get the likes of O’Devaney Gardens again.

    1. DubLoony

      The July motion would have had the effect of delaying the re-development by a year as the original planning permission was for mixed tenure. The change may have been a result of the planners telling that to the Councillors.

      DCC have learned the lesson that large social housing only estate will never again be developed. All the regeneration projects that were done over past 20 years were needed as they were social failures for decades before that.

      Infill, mixed use, mixed sizes, services within reach, vibrant community is the way to go.

      1. David J

        So I have another 20 years of this? My house is 2 years old and the council houses were handed over and filled around last Christmas

    2. Janet, I ate my avatar

      grew up on a social housing estate where my parents where one of the few to opt for the buy option,was a kip for first 15 years now 37 years on its lovely… parents glad they never moved although very tempted in the past …
      I know I know I don’t look my age..

      1. Jocky

        My relatives had the same predicament. They regret not moving as now two of their kids are dead and one is in jail.

    3. Guess Who

      “I was under the impression that not having ghettos was a good idea.”

      Yeah but they want to privatise it, so making a middle class hipster ghetto of beards and stupid looking bikes.

  2. Joe Small

    This Worker’s Party Councilor got 303 First Preference votes at the last election. That’s 1.28% of the votes cast in Dublin Central. She makes People Before Profit look mainstream. Who does she speak for?

    1. realPolithicks

      Why don’t you get up off your arse and run for election instead of criticizing this person who is at least trying to get something done.

  3. Trueblueterry

    If this land is worth so much, would it not be a good idea to sell it to a private developer and use the money derived from the sale to create even more social housing than could have been created on this site?

    1. Turgenev

      No. It would be a good idea to build good houses as the Corporation did (always using better materials and higher standards than private developers), and to rent them at affordable rates linked to people’s incomes. We don’t need people grinding a profit out of homes; we need decent housing for a decent life.

  4. the florist

    living in the area, the last thing we need is another large social housing development. mix development is the best the way forward. this part of the city seems to be where DCC dumps their problems.

  5. mrs S

    Because of the location of the land – beside Phoenix Park etc – it is worth a lot of money.

    The land should be sold by DCC to a developer. The money which the developer pays would then be available for DCC to construct its own social housing in infill or more mixed sites on smaller plots of land around the city.

  6. David

    O’Deavany Gardens was a massive massive failure, the residents had no respect for their houses or for the surrounding neighbourhoods full of hard working, honest, families.

    Even the bus drivers were afraid to drive through O’Devaney and had to divert away from it at peak times, effecting tourists and families visiting the park and zoo.

    We should learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them. Please do not give us O’Devaney Gardens 2.0

    There’s already social housing surrounding this area at Montpellier Park & Monpellier Hill, there should be a cap put on each area so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past within the city centre.

    1. Kieran NYC

      You’re forgetting that Eilis’ goal is to have us all equal. Even if that means we all live in equal mud huts.

      Solidarity, Comrade!

    2. Protectthe8th

      God forbid we be realistic and honest on the matter. There’s a clear consensus here. With social housing comes inevitable social problems. The world over, it’s a fact.

    3. Barticus

      Indeed O Devaney was a massive failure, but how can you generalise and say that the residents had no respect for their houses. I am from the houses surrounding the flats and there was a fair share of scumbags living here. O Devaney was left to fend for itself for years and years. Nobody gave a fupp about the residents. 280 homes and all they had was a concrete football pitch!!

  7. David

    The area was once home to 280 houses and couldn’t cope….
    This woman is proposing to almost double that to 480 houses on the same piece of land.
    How is that even possible?

  8. stev

    The poor aren’t allowed to live in the inner city anymore. Keep moving them out because the middle class wants to move in.

    1. Stev

      Gentrification is rubbish. No amount of soy lattes and twee shops serving food on roof tiles makes up for the sheer blandness and mind numbing crappery gentrification gives the world.

    2. Stev

      Yeah, your sweeping generalisations are spot on. The place is overrun with oiks ruining it for the slightly better paid. That’s right, keep up the attack.

  9. some old queen

    the council already borrows money from the Housing Finance Agency to lend mortgages.

    The council is giving people mortgages? Really?

    1. Caroline™

      Interesting. I stayed in Yonkers for a few weeks recently. There are very obvious delineations between areas, more so than I’ve ever seen in any other comparative place. The white suburban people were horrified that I was walking and cycling around, several people offered to lend me their cars.

  10. Alan Reilly.

    Please can you furnish us with a lost of the names of these Councillors? There’s no reason why none of them need to hide from the public what they are doing.

    Thanks very much.

  11. Waldo

    “We’ve seen similar giveaways of our oil and gas, our telecoms infrastructure, our bin services and our national airline. It was never going to take long before they came for our land.”

    Oil? What is it with these lefties and their infatuation with “our oil”? There has not been one drop of commercial oil production in and around Ireland.

    1. Yeah, Ok

      Spot on! She should look up the phrase “begging the question”. Lots of rent-a-mob protest types should look it up actually, it’s been doing huuuuge harm for their various causes among the persuadable moderates.

  12. Gavin

    Sorry does anyone really believe this is about social housing, or that if the land was sold to developers the money would be spent on social housing else where, have we had out head in the sand the last 15-20 years…its the Irish government. This is about cash in pockets and favours to be had. The land is currently in public ownership, keep it that way and develop something that can me a model for social housing going forward with a balanced mix of private and public housing.

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