Funding and legal concerns over O’Devaney Gardens

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has warned an agreement, claimed to have been reached by a group of Dublin city councillors on O’Devaney Gardens, cannot be implemented due to funding and legal concerns.

The minister hit out at Dublin City Council and Fianna Fáil for “misleading” the public over the development.

He criticised councillors for announcing public agreements, which he said had not been reached. Minister Murphy also said he “expected more” of Dublin City Council.

The former apartment complex, near Stoneybatter in Dublin, has been derelict since the collapse of a previous agreement to revitalise the area ten years ago.

Over two weeks ago, the redevelopment of the site was given the green light after many years of discussions.

The deal will see more than 800 new homes on the site of the former flat complex located close to the Phoenix Park.

Dublin city councillors had previously said it would reject a proposed deal that included 50% private, 30% social and 20% affordable housing on the site.

But earlier this month a group of councillors said it had reached a deal with the developer Bartra, which involved selling 30% of the overall units to an approved housing body that would offer the units as affordable rental.

However, in a letter obtained by Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin and seen by RTÉ News, Minister Murphy said the claims were being made by councillors without any consultation with his department.

Mr Murphy said that buying the units would require significant capital and in order to repay the finance, the rent prices would have to be set at current market rates, which he said would not be affordable rental.

Today, the minister said that the funding was available for the deal that the city council brought to Government.

However, he said that no Affordable Housing Body to fund the new deal was announced by councillors.

The minister said the Government believes in mixed tenure when it comes to housing and he said it wanted to build sites for all members of the public, including a mix of private, social and affordable homes.

Mr Ó Broin, Sinn Fein’s housing spokesperson, said the letter he received from Minister Murphy confirmed that “no such deal had been secured”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, he said there was no funding for affordable rental accommodation to be provided by the Department of Housing and that there was no request for such funding.

“Even if Dublin City Council was to buy 30% of the units from Bartra, because the price they would be buying them at is so high they wouldn’t be affordable to rent.

“In fact, the rent would be close to market rent. So either the Dublin agreement group are incompetent and didn’t know what they signed up to, or they deliberately misled other councillors.”

Mr Ó Broin said the “tragedy of this” is that the community of O’Devaney Gardens now do not know if they are going to get anything.

Speaking on the same programme, Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Fitzpatrick said Sinn Féin had “no credibility” on the issue.

She said Sinn Féin had put together “an appalling deal”, which would have seen 50% of the land allocated for private housing and would not have delivered any affordable rental housing on the site.

She described O’Devaney Gardens as “prime site” that “both the Government and every political party should be championing” for delivery of housing.

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan said his party, along with Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Green Party and Sinn Féin, all agreed in January 2017 that this plan was “the road forward”.

He said that “fundamentally, this scheme is the same as the original”.

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English said the plan has not changed.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said “it’s not that there’s a row”, but it was a matter of bringing “legal clarity” to the issue.

He said Minister Murphy wrote to councillors to clarify what they had said after the council passed the agreement.

“There’s an impression given that the plan has changed, but it actually hasn’t. The legal agreement and everything that’s there is the same plan that passed and that Eoghan Murphy asked the local authority to get passed and move on with,” he said.

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