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Cllr Dermot Lacey

Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council
Dermot Lacey is a Labour Party Councillor for the Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council. Dermot has been a member of Dublin City Council since 1993, and lives in Beech Hill, Donnybrook.
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 / Cllr Dermot Lacey ƒ Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council

Local government as enablers of social & affordable housing

Beech Hill Terrace is a relatively short road here in Donnybrook. There were ten terraced houses built along one side and about five on the other side when Dublin Corporation developed the Estate in the 1950’s.

However, if you stand in the middle of the road now, you will see five new Dublin City Council homes built about eight years ago, nine new Affordable Homes built five years ago and just ready for occupancy, nineteen new social housing apartments. In addition there are four privately built new houses. Yes thirty-seven new homes all built in this one small area in recent years. Between them they represent what needs to be done and what can be done. They also reflect on why it is not done. If every Parish or community in Dublin was to deliver similarly we could have up to 7,000 new homes across the County.

Later this month residents will move into these nineteen new apartments. They are the only new social housing units provided this year in the Constituency of the Minister for Housing. Despite the fact that these new social homes were built on land owned by Dublin City Council and that there were no Planning Objections it has taken eight years to get from concept to tenants moving in. This is simply unacceptable and is a direct result of the failed Institution that is the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and of successive Government policies.

The delays were entirely at a bureaucratic and administrative level. Eight years of seeking if the homes could be approved under the CAS, (Capital Assistance Scheme) or the CALF, (Capital Advance Leasing Facility) or even the CLSS, (Capital Loan Subsidy Scheme. Eight years of an idea sitting on multiple desks waiting for decisions, eight years of paper moving from Approved Housing Body, to Council to Department of Housing Planning and Local Government. Eight wasted years for human beings who could have had a home – but did not.

Why or how does this happen? Is it political indifference ? Is it Departmental inertia? Arrogance? Power? The Department claims to be concerned about our Housing problem. Ministers claim to be concerned about our Housing problem. Yet both, desperately cling on to the power that delays, obstructs and interferes with the actual building of homes. All of this is allied to a systematic dismantling of the Local Government system that delivered hundreds of thousands of new quality homes, in far worse economic times, when it did have the power, resources and funds to deliver.

The Department claims to have a four stage process for approval. They made great fuss recently of going from eight stages of approval to four stages. What they don’t say is that within each stage there are many other stages and indeed when it comes to an Approved Housing Body (the Departments preferred way of housing delivery) the stages are multiplied. From Approved Housing Body, to Local Authority to Department. Any time there is a change it has to go through all three again. As an aside I was fascinated to see that in the fifteen page document containing the “four stage approval process” the words “Community” or “Councillor” did not appear even once.

Why? Why is this the case? Why can the Local Authority Planners not give approval? Why we do need three sets of planners and architects? Why does a clearly incapable Department have any say at all?

So what do I want?

I want Local Government to be freed to build homes again. I want employment caps on Planners, Architects, Quantity surveyors, skilled crafts persons to be lifted. I want the dead hand of Departmental bureaucracy removed. I want funds to be allocated to Councils and then told to “get on with the job”. I want Dublin City Council to be able to refurbish or indeed, not refurbish, if that is the wish of the tenant, newly allocated housing. Any of us involved in housing have seen the huge waste in returning a flat and house to its original layout only for a new tenant to restore it to how the previous tenant had it – just to meet centrally set department standards.
All homes are not the same so why should all social housing be the same – same doors, same windows, same colours, same internal layout. I know its not a strong point in the Custom House but many tenants and would be tenants do have imagination and have innovative ideas about their own homes. Why should the Department decide these matters. In any event given the fact that so many new homes will be delivered through the Part 5, 10% Social Housing requirement, such restrictions and indeed strictures will no longer be possible.

I want Local Government to become the enablers of local housing co-operatives and voluntary housing associations. I want the rules that now inhibit local co-operatives in favour of the larger Housing associations to be removed. I want the enormous potential of local Credit Unions to invest in local housing to be released. In short I want the State at both political and administrative levels to stop blocking and start supporting the delivery of social and affordable housing. Ireland did it before – we can do it again.

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