Wednesday 11 December 2019

Fionnán Sheahan: 'Wasteland in prime city location a microcosm of housing crisis'

The O'Devaney Gardens site
The O'Devaney Gardens site
Fionnán Sheahan

Fionnán Sheahan

It should be a dream location for a wannabe homeowner in a city blighted by a housing shortage and ever-increasing rents.

Adjacent to the largest enclosed park within any European capital city, a bus route rolls by the front door.

It's within walking distance of the city centre and one of the country's biggest public transport hubs.

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Planning permission is secure and the site is fully serviced with electricity, water, sewerage, roads, lighting and footpaths.

And yet it's a wasteland.

O'Devaney Gardens, in the north Dublin city area of Stoneybatter, is so close to the city centre you can see the top of The Spire on O'Connell Street. Phoenix Park is 500 yards away. Heuston Station with its trains, buses and Luas is just down the road.

The O’Devaney Gardens site has lain derelict for years. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The O’Devaney Gardens site has lain derelict for years. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The now-demolished apartment complex was originally built in 1954.

The estate was haunted by social problems during its lifetime.

It was earmarked for regeneration over 30 years ago. Fifteen years ago, there was approval for demolition and redevelopment in a partnership between Dublin City Council and a private developer. The economic crash put paid to that plan.

The tenants continued to move out and the last of the original 13 four-storey blocks was demolished last year.

A new deal would see a developer build 769 homes: 50pc for private sale, 30pc social and 20pc affordable.

But the development is mired in controversy over giving public land to a private developer and the social mix in the neighbourhood.

The ruling parties in Dublin City Council, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats claimed to have struck a new deal which would mean another 30pc of the homes would be made available for affordable renting.

But there is little evidence to back up their claim or how they will fund it.

The flat complexes are now gone and wild grass and weeds cover the ground.

Last evening, a few kids were piling up timber for a post-Halloween bonfire.

The tarmacadam where the playground in the flats lay is still visible.

Graffiti is painted on the ground: "Yous took our homes. Shame on you all."

Dublin has a housing crisis. A site for 800 homes lies ready to be developed.

The crying shame is the powers that be can't agree how to get on with the job.

It's a microcosm of the obstacles to solving the housing crisis.

Irish Independent

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