Re: Re: Future of council housing

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I can say that it improved the physical living conditions of many. It’s well known that the build quality of public housing in places like Coolock and Finglas built in the 50’s and 60’s is far superior to much of their private sector contemporaries. However, I don’t think you can say much architecturally about e.g. Jobstown, Ballymun or Darndale, the latter two were experiments inflicted on the working class, which failed. Miserably.

The main problem was the sheer scale of some of the estate building, which gave rise to monotonous landscapes. Tallaght is massive, Finglas sprawls. I guess land assembly and ownership patterms coupled with a housing emergency at the time, led to this pattern. Build what you can as soon as you can. If you look at what happened in the old Dun Laoghaire Borough area, much smaller and disparate patterns emerge. With the exception of Sallynoggin, no major local authority development exists, and it’s unfair to single out Sallynoggin to be honest. Even Ballybrack’s council provision isn’t that big. Especially compared to the likes of Ballyfermot or Neilstown.

This gave rise to a far more diverse, ever changing urban landscape, whereby you cycle or drive past large mansions next to your typical grey estate of terraces. Then you have your average suburban private housing estate next to local authority flats, or whatever. Deansgrange and Kill o’ the Grange/Monkstown are two areas where this is most obvious. In that regard Council housing provided diversity in the urban grain, and adds to the overall feel of the place. Some of my favourite housing in this area is in the back streets of Dun Laoghaire town centre, where rows of redbrick terraced housing, maisonettes and flats are literally stacked into the narrow streets, with direct frontage, yards without gardens, and little space for cars. The exact opposite of Tallaght, and far more attractive. And around the corner lie Victorian mansions, either owner occupied or sublet.

Socially the public housing program has been of mixed success at best. And I don’t blame the authorities too much for the failings,. They responded to a slum crisis in the city, whereby people actually died as a result of a house collapse, as best they could. As mentioned above, the quality of the housing is generally good. However as I’m sure we’re all aware, the social element failed drastically in some areas. Also in the case of Darndale and Ballymun, the architecture compounded the social failings.

Building vast sprawling estates to house the urban poor could be regarded as the biggest failure in government thinking post-war. Not just in Ireland, but across Europe. But they could be excused moreso, as their cities had been destroyed. For a family from a tenement in Summerhill, to be displaced to Old Bawn, or Finglas, seperated from their neighbours they used to live on top of, unserved by any shops or community facilities, in a landscape built for a car they never owned, was a huge mistake which came home to roost spectacularly. It related directly to the argument that higher densities are essential for community creation, amongst other things. It could have been done better, but so could almost everything.

As for the future, well I’d like to know if Part V is ever gonna be allowed to play the part it was intended to play in housing provision in this country. It’s been watered down and abused by the govt/developers so much at this stage that it’s meaningless in relation to it’s initial intentions. It has to be implemented properly to ensure a healthy social mix and prevent ghettos, of all class types. Sadly, it’s never going to be in the developer’s interests to do so.

I’d like to see smaller estates and a diverse housing base. I’d like to see different architects used thorughout the sector, as was done in Ballymun’s Regeneration, instead of vast monotonous estates, and the exact same house types being built in Bray as in Ballyfermot. I’d like council estates, if such are to be built, to consist of traditional family houses, townhouses, family sized apartments, even some taller buildings, with an emphasis on community services and diversity of stock.

I no longer want to see a new suburb develop that is tarred from the outset, as a sink estate, a problem area, disadvantaged. I don’t think that will ever happen again, due to policy, but moreover the economic situation. It is essential that this money is directed towards building in the right place. There is no point isolating social housing for short term monetary benefits. Ballymun was a harsh lesson in that regard.

I look forward to seeing how and where they target this investment

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