Mixed homes hit by class war turmoil
Juno McEnroe (sunday times)
IT was hailed as an award-winning experiment in social housing. One year on, Clarion Quay, Irelandâ€™s first foray into mixed community living is embroiled in class warfare.
Well-heeled residents have fallen foul of the local authority tenants with whom they share the apartment complex in Dublinâ€™s financial services centre.
Singletons accuse their local authority neighboursâ€™ children of trampling noisily on the complexâ€™s communal green and of being â€œgenerally destructiveâ€.
Tenants claim their children feel â€œimprisonedâ€ in their own homes, because they are lambasted when they play outside. Jennifer Manly, who has three children, said: â€œShauna got shouted at and told â€˜donâ€™t play on the grass. Itâ€™s privateâ€™. Itâ€™s ridiculous, how are we meant to live here?â€ Another mother, Catherine McDonagh, said: â€œItâ€™s not fair that the private residents can have their kids play on the park area and ours canâ€™t. Then, they give out about the noise, but stay up like big kids having parties all night.â€
Private residents were more reluctant to speak publicly about the stand-off. One 27-year-old manager, who gave his name as Billy, said he is moving out.
â€œThe problem has been building for the last seven months. The noise is terrible, but thatâ€™s what kids do. The management are not good at doing anything. Now theyâ€™ve arranged for a security person to come in. I canâ€™t wait to get out of here,â€ he said.
â€œSome of my neighbours are paying â‚¬1,500 or more a month. In the private apartments, people want to come home and relax. Theyâ€™re single, young and donâ€™t have kids. The whole idea of mixed housing doesnâ€™t work inside this complex. You donâ€™t get the peace you want for paying half a million.â€
The row has disappointed Dublin Docklandâ€™s Development Authority, the originators of the social housing project. Noel Ahern, a junior minister and brother of the taoiseach, launched the scheme in December. It recently won a prestigious Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland award for â€œBest Housing Projectâ€.
Judges admired the quality and character of its public spaces: â€œThe social housing residents in particular express appreciation of the identical standards achieved in both social and private units.â€
Last week, the DDDA admitted its original design was flawed. In a statement it said: â€œOne year on, it has become clear that the green common area at Clarion Quay does not accommodate the recreational needs of small children. The use of the space has been problematic and has caused some controversy among residents.â€
The DDDA may take lessons from the Clarion Quay experience. It plans three more social housing projects in Dublin.
The rectangular apartment complex in the cityâ€™s financial services area surrounds a communal green. About 37 of the complexâ€™s 120 apartments are social housing, which the government bought for â‚¬7.3m. Those are rented out to local authority tenants.
Ian and Tanya Harris, who have two children, claimed that residents from the other blocks have ordered their children to play elsewhere. â€œThey were told to go over to Sheriff Streetâ€™s playground. The traffic on the roads is dangerous and our kids are both under five.â€
The DDDA has not ruled out setting up a special section for the children. But tenants are anxious that their children will be segregated behind a wall or fence.
Gerry Fay, of the North Wall Community Association, said residents are unhappy. â€œHow do you tell a three-year-old, â€˜donâ€™t go thereâ€™. Itâ€™s difficult to explain to a young child about social division. Questions must be asked about why the developers of the site didnâ€™t see this coming.â€
Tracy Patterson, who represents the local residents association, is hopeful the problem can be worked out. â€œThere is nothing for the children to do, so sometimes they play on the â€˜tellytubbyâ€™ green area. We are all just trying to build a place where families can grow up.â€
Donal McManus, the executive director of the Irish Council for Social Housing, said the early stages of mixed developments are the most crucial. â€œProblems that can arise include issues of communal space, management issues and access to the units. You need to have all sides meet at the pre-planning stages.â€