herald

Friday 24 January 2020

'Toxic battles against new housing a huge obstacle to solving crisis', says Kenny

Dublin City Council housing chief Brendan Kenny was also asked about the decision to remove coats for the homeless from the Ha’penny Bridge, an idea he said wasn’t practical
Dublin City Council housing chief Brendan Kenny was also asked about the decision to remove coats for the homeless from the Ha’penny Bridge, an idea he said wasn’t practical

Local opposition to developments is one of the biggest obstacles to tackling the housing crisis and is delaying builds, a senior housing boss has said.

Dublin City Council (DCC) housing chief Brendan Kenny says local opposition to social and private housing developments, along with emergency accommodation, is adding months to project start dates.

He described this as sometimes "toxic opposition".

Mr Kenny referred to parents who want a home for their adult children and are critical of Government policy "but then when any kind of a development happens beside them there's opposition to it".

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Kenny said that sometimes DCC is forced into a U-turn on a housing project, but this is rare given the depth of the homelessness crisis.

In total, there are 10,514 people living in emergency accommodation across the country.

Hassle

However, the number of families presenting as homeless in Dublin is falling, he says.

"One of the biggest obstacles to providing social housing in the city and hostels and emergency accommodation, is opposition, huge opposition and some cases a very toxic type of opposition," Mr Kenny said.

"It doesn't matter how big the facility is, if it's four houses, 20 houses, 30 houses, we get huge opposition."

He added that this is also the case for private developments.

Ha'penny Bridge coats
Ha'penny Bridge coats

"We rarely do a U-turn because we can't, it's actually the hassle we go through, the delays that happen, the pressure communities put on politicians, quite often the politicians get the blame, but they come under huge pressure as well," he said.

"It's the delays that happen, it takes longer, more consultation, demands for meetings and in more recent times, communities are actually going to the courts and stopping us and getting judicial reviews, all that kind of stuff.

"It's frustrating, but it's par for the course and we try and get around it as much as possible. It could delay it for months."

The council's deputy chief added that building emergency accommodation in Dublin city "is a battle and some of these battles turn into wars".

There has been criticism of an over-concentration of emergency accommodation in city centre areas.

"It's particularly difficult for us to develop emergency accommodation in the city because that's where the demand is," Mr Kenny said.

"People will say, 'Why don't you do it in Rathgar, why don't you do it in Clontarf', and we have.

Coats

"But the opportunity for hostels tends to come in city centre areas, in areas where you might have a vacant property or a property up for sale."

Mr Kenny was also asked about the council's decision to remove coats which were hung up on the Ha'penny Bridge by members of the public in an initiative for those homeless in the city.

The council faced a backlash following the removal, and more coats were hung up on the bridge a few days later.

However, the housing boss said the idea wasn't practical and was a safety concern.

"The reality is you have to admire anybody that wants to help the homeless, but this is not the way to do it," he said.

"By putting coats on the Ha'penny Bridge you could cause chaos, you could have scrambles.

"There's no guarantee the homeless will get them, you'll get opportunists who'll take them and sell them or use them themselves."

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