Just a day after my rant about the new Vacant Sites Levy I get an email from someone in Phibsborough, upset about the continued dereliction of buildings on his street.
"I wonder if you can help. Myself & other residents of Connaught St, Phibsboro have been engaged with Dublin City Council for almost a decade regarding three derelict addresses, Numbers 7, 19 & 21 – the only three vacant on our thriving strip of ~150 family homes. But we are now stuck.
"These three properties are under three different ownerships, and each has been left unoccupied since the 1980s. In 2012 the state of dereliction became so awful, that Dublin City Council had to buttress, and make emergency repairs to prevent the terrace coming down. At that point, all three properties were on the Register of Derelict Sites. Dublin City Council made emergency repairs to the roofs & outer brickwork, and boarded up all accesses as shown in the images below.
Locals were under the impression thereafter that the sites were in the process of being acquired by Dublin City Council. In December 2016, after inquiry, we find that there is no process ... in train, and that the sites are no longer on the Register of Derelict Sites.
"The impossible aspect of the problem as we see it is this:
· In 2012 when there was no Housing Crisis, but the sites were derelict. Dublin City Council Boarded them up.
· In 2017 when the Council’s Housing Development unit is actively looking to acquire such properties to meet the housing crisis, they cannot – as the houses are boarded up too neatly, and thus are not derelict."
Ironically the new Vacant Site Levy won't apply as the houses between them only amount to 400 square metres, including the back garden and the threshold for inclusion is 500 square metres.
I've replied to the resident saying that I'll submit the following Question for written reply by Owen Keegan next month.
“That the Chief Executive present a report on actions that Dublin City has taken to render 19 & 21 Connaught Street, Phibsborough, Dublin 7 non-derelict, and to present any opinion that he may have (including advice from the Law Agent) indicating that the properties are no longer derelict given that they are boarded up, have Buddleia bushes growing out of the roofs, and decaying masonry, and are located in a Residential Conservation Area, and could he outline what action he now intends to take to ensure that these homes are made available to assist in the tackling of Dublin’s housing crisis. Furthermore would he agree that the empty state of these homes for more than a decade necessitates a more proactive approach by the Council?”
From my perspective as a councillor it seems that we need to broaden the definition of what constitutes a derelict or vacant site, and lobby Minister Simon Coveney to set the minimum threshold at 100 sq. m. rather than the current 500 sq. m. in the 2015 Urban Regeneration and Housing Act. We also need to get the Vacant Sites Register up and running as soon as possible, and I've already written to Owen Keegan asking him to do so.
I'll keep you posted.