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Mary Lou McDonald among objectors to 1,600-apartment build-to-rent development in her Dublin constituency

Build-to-rent’ schemes exploit housing shortage and drive up price of land, making housing even more unaffordable, Sinn Féin leader argues


An artist's impression of the proposed Holy Cross scheme for 1,600 build-to-rent apartments by Hines in Drumcondra

An artist's impression of the proposed Holy Cross scheme for 1,600 build-to-rent apartments by Hines in Drumcondra

An artist's impression of the proposed Holy Cross scheme for 1,600 build-to-rent apartments by Hines in Drumcondra

Mary Lou McDonald has stated that if planning is approved for the 1,614 ‘build-to-rent’ apartments on the grounds of Clonliffe College in Drumcondra, Dublin, it will only further exacerbate the housing crisis.

The Sinn Féin leader and Dublin Central TD is one of 120 parties to make submissions on the contentious €610 million scheme proposed by the Irish arm of US property giant Hines.

The vast majority of those to lodge submissions to the ‘fast-track’ scheme are opposed to the plan that is to be made up of 12 apartment blocks ranging from two storeys to 18 storeys in height.

The Holy Cross College Strategic Housing Development (SHD) is to comprise of 540 studios, 603 one bed units, 418 two bed units and 53 three bed units.

One of the objectors, the Clonliffe and Croke Park Residents Association, claims that the scheme will have a “catastrophic” impact on the long established community in the area.

Hines has already committed to allocating 20pc of the apartments for social and affordable housing and as part of the first phase of that commitment, documents lodged with An Bord Pleanála put a price tag of €61 million on 161 apartments to be sold to Dublin City Council for social housing.

The final price will be determined if and when Hines secures planning permission for the ambitious scheme.

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However, in a strident objection against the apartments, Ms McDonald stated that ‘build to rent’ schemes are driven by investors seeking to exploit the high demand for housing and apartments in urban centres.

She states: “As a consequence, these developments drive up the cost of that land, making standard residential development for Dublin even more unaffordable.”

She pointed out that 70pc of the units are one-beds and studios. “This does not meet the housing needs of Dublin Central,” she argues.

Dublin City planning officer with An Taisce, Kevin Duff, states that An Taisce has serious concern over the scale of the scheme and argues that build-to-rent militates against the fostering and nurturing of the longer term community in the area.

Maynooth academic and housing expert Rory Hearne states that “this mega build-to-rent scheme would essentially be a private enclave set apart from the local area, owned by overseas institutional investors”.

He said: “This is a reversion of 100 years in social progress of land ownership."

Mr Hearne further claims that the development “is part of a race to the bottom in the Irish housing system” and if approved will give the green light to others to pursue similar type developments.

Requesting an oral hearing into the scheme, Mr Hearne also states that there are insufficient units for families in the development.

Former environment editor with The Irish Times Frank McDonald claims in his objection that the “overblown scheme” is just another element “in the ongoing commodification of housing in Dublin for international capital investment, engineered by the property lobby and facilitated by successive mandatory guidelines”.

Mr McDonald claims that the 12 apartment blocks constitute nothing more than build-to-rent (BTR) “money trees” in a landscaped setting.

Mr McDonald added that in first researching and then writing the observation: “I realise that I have probably wasted three days of my life.”

He stated that with few exceptions, An Bord Pleanála “has casually disregarded our submissions and granted permission for overblown SHD schemes all over Dublin, based on national policy and its own predilection for high-rise developments”.

Mr McDonald says that the appeals board should refuse planning on the basis that the scheme constitutes sub-standard housing and that its scale is grossly excessive.

A number of local residents’ associations have also lodged objections against the scheme.

The Clonliffe and Croke Park Residents Association states that it strongly opposes the scheme “because it would have a catastrophic impact on the long-established community into which it is proposed to be located, in terms of its environmental impact and scale”.

The Griffith Avenue and District Residents Association states that “we are a low-rise village and this present plan will dominate the area, both in terms of height and style”.

However, in comprehensive submissions on behalf of Hines, planning consultants Brady Shipman & Martin state that the scheme “provides for high-quality residential accommodation close to the city centre and a key public transport corridor”.

The consultants state that the scheme is consistent with the national, regional and local policy framework “and the proposal will provide for an effective and efficient use of these former institutional lands which are highly accessible”.

The consultants further state that the proposed development site can achieve increased building height and resulting building density without negatively impacting on the surrounding environment.

The lodging of the plans follows the GAA selling 19 acres of land at Clonliffe College to Hines in 2019. The GAA had previously purchased the 31.8 acre Clonliffe College for €95 million.

The period for lodging submissions is now closed and An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the scheme in early November.