By Dan O’Rourke
‘Vulture Funds’ will now be able to purchase up to 524 homes in the O’Devaney Gardens housing development following a decision by An Bord Pleanála. This reverses a previous decision by the planning body, made in September 2021, which banned the sale of the units to any “corporate entity”.
Prior to that, in late 2019, the site near Phoenix Park in Dublin was shamefully sold off to Bartra development group by a coalition of supposedly “left of centre” city councillors, including the Greens, Social Democrats, and Labour, in collaboration with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Bartra is notorious for attempting to build co-living rentals with 40 people sharing a kitchen.
Private developer gains
Under the original deal, 20% of new builds would be social housing, while 30% would be sold as affordable housing, with the ban covering the remaining homes. In this instance “affordable” meant at least €300,000.
The latest ‘clarification’ from An Bord Pleanála, which lifts the ban, comes on foot of a judicial appeal from Bartra. Bartra are more eager to sell large swathes of homes to investment funds in one go, and get above the market value.
The original deal was for 768 homes reaching up to eight storeys. Since then, Bartra has received planning permission to significantly increase height and density to 1,053 homes, as high as 14 storeys.
The area is traditionally a ‘low rise’ residential area with buildings reaching only four stories. Local residents who will have to live in the shadow of these tower blocks will be adversely affected. Arguments in favour of high rise developments ignore the fact that there are already more vacant homes than homeless people. The “scarcity” of housing is manufactured.
Disgraceful council decisions
A previous Dublin City Council motion to force Bartra to stick to the original deal, or have the property returned to public ownership, was voted down in August 2021, again by those same shameless parties. Their woeful record on this issue should be made known to all Dublin City residents.
As James Connolly correctly said in 1915 “governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class”. This clearly still applies today, and also applies to local government.
What we need
Housing is a basic necessity and human right, and just like health, education, transport and other vital public services, it should not be commodified for profit.
The ridiculous ideology of the “hidden hand of the market” has clearly failed. Demand for housing has far outstripped supply, and meagre reforms via a ‘lesser evil’ approach have repeatedly failed to deliver.
To counter this failed approach we need a socialist programme for housing, beginning with the understanding that the rules of the capitalist system, dictated by an elite minority, must be ripped up if the needs of the majority are to be met.
This means building a ground-up movement to slash and freeze rents, seize the assets of vulture funds and end their parasitic speculative practices, seize the vacant properties of the profiteers, bring major construction firms into democratic public ownership, and commence a major construction programme to build public homes and resolve the crisis once and for all.