The 100th anniversary of Dublin’s first post-independence public housing scheme will be commemorated in the Liberties this week.
The housing project was built on the site of what was then known as the Fairbrother’s Fields in Dublin 8, later referred as to locally the Tenters.
The name relates to an early 20th century practice where clothing factories would hang out their cloths to dry on tenterhooks.
Dublin Corporation laid the first brick for the ambitious housing scheme in 1922 in a bid to tackle the city’s worsening housing crisis. Dublin’s slums were considered to be among the worst anywhere in Ireland and the UK at the time.
Plans to address the housing problem across the city had been in the pipeline since 1912. However, progress on a number of schemes stalled due to tumultuous events like the 1913 Lockout, the Easter Rising and First World War.
The fact that Dublin Corporation was able to commence work on the Irish Free State’s first tenant purchase housing scheme so soon after independence was hailed as a significant achievement at the time.
More than 400 houses, with front and back gardens and a parlour, were delivered as part of the Fairbrother’s Fields development.
Maria O’Reilly, chairperson of the Fairbrother’s Fields Centenary Celebration Committee and a fourth-generation resident of the Tenters, described the original scheme as “transformative” and “ahead of its time”.
“For the likes of my great-grandfather, who was among the first to qualify for a house at Fairbrother’s Fields, this was life-changing after living in the tenements,” she said.
“The tenant purchase scheme allowed him to buy the house over a 40-year lease period, which he wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”
According to Maria, the original scheme was over-subscribed, with 2,500 seeking homes. To qualify, you had to have a dependent family with young children and live and work in Dublin.
There were around eight different house styles, with prospective purchasers assessed for each type according to their means.
Maria said while many city flat complexes have since come and gone, the model adopted for the Tenters project has stood the test of time.
“Part of the reason for this is that the homes came with the promise of ownership,” she added.
The 100th anniversary of the Tenters will be marked tomorrow (February 1) with the planting of a tree donated by Dublin City Council in Oscar Square Park.
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