herald

Monday 22 January 2018

'Ordinary workers are being priced out of new homes', warns Keegan

Council chief Owen Keegan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Council chief Owen Keegan. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Many new homes being dev-eloped in Dublin are at prices out of the reach of ordinary workers, Dublin City Council (DCC) chief executive Owen Keegan has said.

Homes coming on to the market, particularly in the Docklands, were aimed at high-income earners, making them too expensive for many workers.

Mr Keegan said he was "disappointed" that a land bubble had returned.

In an interview with the Herald, he said there was "something not right" when people were paying higher rents than mortgage repayments, and he was not happy with the number of homes being delivered.

"Clearly expensive new homes is a problem," he said.

"I'd be hard-pushed to identify anyone in the civic offices on a single income who could afford to buy in the Docklands.

"There needs to be a more broad-based recovery. It has initially been focused on the higher end of the market."

Mr Keegan said measures introduced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to reduce the cost of building apartments, such as removing the need for car parking spaces and not imposing an upper height limit, should help boost supply.

While many people appreciated the need for sustainable transport systems, the same logic did not apply to building sustainable communities, he added.

Mr Keegan also said height was an issue that the council had "struggled with".

"Everybody agrees there should be higher density, 'but not in my area'," he said.

"If I'm in a three-storey house, I regard it as ideal. We need to have sensitivity around blocking out light and views, but the city needs greater height.

Difficult

"We are constantly trying to push the boat out, but elected members will often have a different view. It's difficult for them. They reflect the views of the people who elect them.

"We convinced members to adopt a higher-density model in Poolbeg [where more than 3,000 homes are planned].

"People accept the logic of sustainable transport. I'm not sure they do for housing. People like living in Dublin, and they like it the way it is."

Mr Keegan said the Docklands might be a missed opportunity to develop high-density homes, with most available sites built or being developed.

He also said he could see a situation in the future where developers would buy existing low-density developments with a view to razing them and building high-density units.

Speaking about social housing, he said that among the reasons for the slow rate of delivery was that councils stopped building homes during the recession.

Between DCC, approved housing bodies and Part V homes - delivered in private developments - around 650 new homes were provided last year.

"We pay a very high price for this boom and bust, but there may have been justifiable reas- ons at the time," he said.

"It has taken us longer to gear up and the process has been slow.

"It's disappointing to see we've gone back to the land bubble.

"You have people paying rents much higher than mortgages. Something's not right."

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