And why public land should be used for public housing
On 16 November 2020, at a meeting of Dublin City Council, by a vote of 48 to 14 (1 abstention) councillors voted not to gift the 42 acres of prime council-owned land of the Oscar Traynor Road Development in Coolock to the property developer Glenveagh. Instead, we have the opportunity to develop the site to deliver some of the affordable housing so many Dubliners desire and require.
Thanks to the Oscar Traynor Road Housing Campaign, Uplift and dozens of independent activists, the proposed development was halted. In the original plan, of 853 proposed homes, 50% (428) would have been sold privately by the developer on the open market at unaffordable prices, only 30% (253) would have been allocated to social housing and 20% (173) were categorised as affordable purchase: yet with asking prices of 320,000 for a three-bed home this was hardly affordable. And we did not know how much the city council would pay the developer for each of the social housing homes.
My thoughts on the future of the Oscar Traynor Road site, immediately after the successful vote on 16 November.
Oscar Traynor Road Housing Campaign
A Facebook page was set up by an alliance of activists who wanted to challenge the giveaway plans for the Oscar Traynor Road development and which will now advocate for a plan that leads to hundreds of affordable homes being built.
They said in advance of the vote on 16 November:
To allow this to happen would be unconscionable: precious, finite resources like public land should be used for the common good and not to further enrich already wealthy private interests. We can and must do better.
We can create a better plan for the Oscar Traynor site but we will have to fight for it. We are calling on everyone who wants to see social and truly affordable housing built in the city to get involved.
Please share the video, tweet #SaveOscarTraynor and call your local councillors to vote no!
Thanks to the campaign and especially the work by Uplift, #saveoscartraynor trended as the number 1 political issue in Ireland on the day of the vote.
The History of DCC’s Oscar Traynor Road Development Plan
In January 2017, a majority of political parties in Dublin city council – Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, the Labour Party, the Greens, Fine Gael and Social Democrats – supported a public-private model of housing delivery for the land around Oscar Traynor Road, despite attempts by myself and other left-wing councillors to offer alternative models of delivering social and affordable housing to the tens of thousands of people in Dublin who so desperately need it.
We did so because supporting a model of housing development that allows private developers to profit by gifting them prime public land on which they build and sell half the homes built is not only a poor use of public resources but, more importantly, does not deliver the number of social and affordable homes we need in the city.
After local opposition in Inchicore to the proposal to allow half of the St Michael’s Estate site to be sold privately by a developer, a new plan was drafted which envisaged the site remaining in council-ownership and developed 100% publicly, between social housing and a new cost-rental model. That’s now what we should aim for with the Oscar Traynor site.
Last November, after much controversy, a majority of city councillors voted for the disposal of the land at O’Devaney Gardens to Barta Capital, the preferred bidder for that site. Controversy arose when it emerged that Barta would be selling its 50% of units, all apartments, on the open market with an asking price of €450,000 each, whilst the social housing units were going to cost the council 350,000 each and the ‘affordable’ housing units were to range between €270,000 – €420,000 each.
To have allowed such a situation to arise again would have been unconscionable: precious, finite resources like public land should be used for the common good and not to further enrich already wealthy private interests. We can and must do better.
Affordable housing is needed for the Oscar Traynor Road site
We know that if the profit-motive is removed, affordable housing is possible: O Cualann Co-operative housing was able to deliver affordable housing on council-owned land in Poppintree for €178,000 (3-bed semi-detached).
We know that there are many not-for-profit entities willing to work with the city council to build the social and affordable housing we need.
It is on the public record that O Cualann engaged in the tender process for the Oscar Traynor Road site but was excluded from the process due to a requirement in the Competitive Dialogue model that demanded candidates have an annual turnover of €40 million for two of the last three financial years.
City council officials chose a procurement model that excluded small operators and not-for-profits, a model that would have resulted in: a) half the units constructed being sold at unaffordable prices out of the reach of many on middle incomes; b) expensive social housing in insufficient number; and c) an affordable purchase scheme that is in no way affordable.
No clear-thinking person could have viewed the original proposal as a good one. We can now create a better plan for the Oscar Traynor site but will have to organise the community to win it. To that end the Oscar Traynor Road campaign will keep going with the aim of achieving a better plan and uniting all forces who want to see social and truly affordable housing built in the city.
Podcast About the Oscar Traynor Deal
Reboot Republic’s podcast on the Oscar Traynor Road plan, with interviews with Councillor John Lyons (Independent Left), Cian O’Callaghan (Social Democrats), Laoise Neylon (Dublin Inquirer) and Clare O’Connor (Save the Oscar Traynor Site Campaign).
The Politics of the Oscar Traynor Road Development Plan
The housing crisis that has developed in Ireland over the last decade is a direct result of a series of decisions taken by Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Greens and Fianna Fail to place the provision of housing in the hands of profit-seeking property developers, vulture funds and others. This dependency on market forces has failed miserably to deliver the social and affordable housing Dubliners need but has made a lot of wealthy folk a whole lot richer.
The last five years have seen an exponential increase in rents and house prices. Tens of thousands of individuals, couples and families have experienced difficulties in accessing affordable housing, with many forced to live in overcrowded accommodation, others forced into homelessness, some deciding return to the family home as the private rental market left them with little to live on after the landlord’s rent was paid, whilst many have left the city to make their lives in a less expensive place.
Despite a decade of disastrous decisions, it would appear that despite all the evidence to the contrary, ministers and officials at national and local government firmly wedded to their pro-market housing policy positions believe that the only way to solve the housing crisis is to depend on developers. The thinking behind the defeated Oscar Traynor Road, Coolock, development plan was massively skewed by the outlook and self-interest of a small but powerful lobby group, the developers.
We can and must to better than this.
For details on the campaign or more information about the Oscar Traynor Road development you are welcome to contact me – Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left.
To read about the previous sell off of O’Devaney Gardens, click this link.
Report on development of Dublin City Council land at Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock
To view a copy of the full report of Dublin City Council of the development plan for Oscar Traynor Road click this link.