Thursday, June 23, 2005

State land swapped for affordable houses

It is being reported today that the Irish State is to swap prime land (reg may be required for that link) in the city center to be used for yet another office block in exchange for affordable housing "elsewhere".

While I applaud the sentiment of affordable housing I have to wonder if we are watching another State cock up in the making. The Government has been unable to control the price of housing in Ireland. Its attempts to introduce affordable housing by obliging the developers to allocate 20% of developments to be affordable seem to just be ignored by the developers. Now they are going to give away prime land to encourage the developer to sell crap houses, in sprawling Tallaghtesque housing estates at slightly less inflated prices when they are supposed to be legally obliged to sell affordable houses anyway. The problem with the current affordable housing scheme is the less than subtle loophole:

While up to 20% of any new housing development can be set aside for social/affordable housing, the local authority will determine the exact percentage, given the level of social need in the area. It may decide for example, that zero percent of the overall development is appropriate.

Ahh, the good old local authorities, always looking out for the needs of the common people.

The new houses built as part of this swap are unlikely to be in prime commuter locations and in fact I would expect them to be at least a 2 hour commute away from the new office block on Harcourt Terrace. Why not build a high rise apartment block in Harcourt Terrace and sell those off cheap? The government could donate the land, a developer hired to build the apartments and the affordable housing committee could then sell them cheaply.

Ok I know that Dublin is full of nut cases who want buildings to be no higher than 4 or 5 stories to preserve the character of the city. I live in Dublin, its character isn't all that great. Sure preserve the city center character with its short, rundown, amusement arcades, pound shops, and fast food outlets.

I'd rather see a modern city, with well designed, well maintained highrise apartment blocks (the opposite of the dilapidate rundown slums Ballymun became). Apartment blocks where people live close to their work and the amenities the city has to offer. Instead we are going to get another 500 miles of congested motorways around the city leading to "affordable" housing estates scattered as far from the city as the developers can manage. Which by the time they are built will still sell for more money than the average worker can realistically afford.

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