O’Devaney Gardens so symbolic - Stalled plan encapsulates our failures

O’Devaney Gardens so symbolic - Stalled plan encapsulates our failures
Lord Mayor for Dublin Nial Ring , Fine Gael Minister for Housing, Planning Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal O’Donohoe TD at the turning of the sod on the first phase of the Regeneration of O’Devaney Gardens Dublin.

Back in the old king’s time, long before a prince might feel the need to explain himself to a gawping television audience, impossibly optimistic self-help videos were commonplace. Many tried to help people lose weight.

One, fronted by an acrobatically lithe Californian lady offered a simple mantra: “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

That invocation remains relevant but a version of it seems even more so: “Live to live, don’t live just to pay for a place to live.”

This rich country, this Government, and its predecessors too, local authorities, the 10,000-plus homeless people and the many, many thousands more whose lives seem defined by the struggle to find a home and pay for it are testimony to a policy implosion with ever-widening consequences.

Many of them live to pay for a place to live. And, unlike affordable housing, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Local authorities must take their share even if some have re-energised housing programmes.

That almost half made no application to buy derelict or vacant properties through compulsory purchase orders in the past seven years is a significant reveal.

In the last eight years, only 305 such acquisitions were targeted and just €5.7m — pin money in the context of the crisis — was spent on CPOs.

That well over half that was spent in Louth, where €3.975m funded 155 deals, shows other local authorities in an even poorer light.

One of the least ambitious is Kerry County Council. Just three single rural dwellings will be delivered in the Kingdom this year, only one next year. This year Kerry council will build 62 urban houses and other entities will complete 87.

There are 2,772 approved applicants for social housing in Kerry. Cork City Council is more proactive.

Construction has begun on a €40m project involving 116 homes for delivery within two years. The homes will be built on a site owned by the council, which has more than 1,000 homes in the pipeline.

Those contrasting levels of activity are reflected across the country. They also reflect the complexity of the CPO process which can involve up to 70 pieces of legislation.

The case for streamlining is incontrovertible socially and morally. It is also urgent.

There must be a social and moral context too for yesterday’s Central Bank figures showing that more than 20,000 mortgage holders might carry non-performing mortgage debt into retirement.

A total of 22,264 mortgage accounts held by people over 50 are in arrears, with almost half, 9,370, aged 60 or more. Many are caught in a double whammy — an impossible mortgage obligation and failed pension schemes.

Many of these issues meet in Dublin’s O’Devaney Gardens. Earmarked for rejuvenation three decades ago the land is owned by Dublin City Council so CPOs are not relevant.

However, the proposal to offer public land to a private entity, the mix of housing and funding issues mean the project has stalled. The weeds are growing.

There is hardly a measure the Government or a local authority might take that would not be welcomed if it was to help resolve the shameful housing crisis.

The core issues are alive at O’Devaney Gardens so there is another opportunity for official Ireland to show whose side it is on — and just in time for the election too.

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