Re: Re: Future of council housing

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There is certainly an argument for aiding housing acquisition via the social welfare system. A growing reality in Ireland, to use that awful phrase, is that we’re all middle class darling. The middle ground has bloated so much in recent times that it encompasses a sizeable majority of the population. And to blur the lines even further with regards income and means testing etc, at the same time we have a housing market that pushes ownership of a house beyond the means of many people earning very reasonable incomes.

So it has now got to the stage where not only is affordable housing a ridiculous lottery, but increasingly so too is social housing with its ever-burgeoning waiting lists of tens of thousands of young people and families in particular trying to get somewhere to live.

As jimg mentions, you have the entirely inequitable situation where some people are put to the pin of their collar to scrape together enough cash to put a deposit or mortgage down on a new house, whilst a neighbouring development of social housing, often in a prime location, is available to a select few who either grew up there, or who are lucky enough to be near the top of the waiting list, or indeed even on the waiting list at all.

No doubt there are arguments in favour of retention of the social housing model, and there’s nothing worse than someone who’s been relatively lucky waffling about such matters, but the reality is that social and/or affordable housing are real issues that face every young person starting out in life in Ireland now. The model hasn’t changed, and yet society has altered drastically around it. Access to education has enormously improved, as has the availability of employment, cheap credit and wider social mobility. The reality of a mass group of people dependant on the state has diminished substantially in recent times.

If we do stick with it in some shape or form, I agree with alonso that the small cohesive scheme/estate in otherwise ‘middle class’ areas is the best way of pursuing it, rather than the mass disasters of old. Below is the new face of social housing outside of Dublin: a new estate of roughly 40 houses of mixed design erected in Co Louth in what is a thoroughly comfortable, well-off village.

Designed by Van Dijk Architects (they hold almost a monopoly in Co Louth :)), they’re arranged in a mixture of terrace, semi, two storey and bungalow type, in a reasonably dense formation about four minutes walk from the local village, with the school almost across the road.

They’ve been laid out with curved roads, landscaped areas and green expanses (the grass naturally isn’t looking great at this time of year), and planted with semi-mature trees, all on a visually interesting slightly sloped site. Monotony is not part of this plan.

All houses have robust well-finished stone walls (if cemented to the hilt) and ‘arty’ entrance gates, with a sense that this development has been designed to last as a coherent unit, not be tampered with with whims of frilly PVC facias and balustraded front walls.

Still, I wonder how long it’ll be before the first gate is painted 🙂

The architect’s touch is evident with resolved chimney stacks and an overall decent sense of proportion. The design may be as predictable as anything else going up about the place, but with social housing the very first thing people seem to want is an appearace of ‘normality’ – this really came to the fore with Ballymun residents as I recall.

Thankfully the crucial ‘artery’ walls of the estate are also well-finished – no breeze blocks or spirit-crushing pebbledash facing the public domain as we see almost everywhere nowadays. There’s also no cul-de-sacs, with many pedestrian access/exit points.

Great pity about the galvanised sodium lampposts however, from an aesthetic, energy and safety perspective. We really have to get out of the public lighting rut we’re in in this country.

Facing the main road the estate has been arranged in a traditional gable-fronted manner, with step-down properties which work very well. Not that I’ve ever understood people getting heated over upholding a tradition barely a couple of hundred years old which is entirely subjective to the landscape, but it’s attactive in this instance.

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