Rhebogue residents outline opposition social housing plan

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Rhebogue residents gathered at the site of a proposed 21-unit housing scheme in Drominbeg. An action group has been formed made up of the four residents associations in the area
RHEBOGUE residents have largely come out in opposition to a proposal to build 21 units of social housing in Drominbeg.

RHEBOGUE residents have largely come out in opposition to a proposal to build 21 units of social housing in Drominbeg.

More than 150 local residents gathered at Richmond Rugby Club for a meeting to learn more about the plans, which will see a green spot at the front of the estate replaced with the housing.

Limerick City and County Council is teaming up with the National Association of Building Co-operatives to deliver the units, which will cost €3.8m.

The project – with each unit costing around €180,000 – is expected to be in place by 2017.

But there are concerns from residents that the development could see a more value wiped off their homes, an increase in anti-social behaviour, and the loss of a green space at the front of the estate.

Now, an action group has been formed of the four local residents associations which will lobby against the move.

Gearoid Murphy, the chairman of the Drominbeg Residents Association, said: “We have nothing against social housing. Our biggest concern is that we have paid a lot of money for our houses, and they have lost nearly 40% of their value [due to the recession]. With a development like this, we are told it will further diminish the value.”

During the heated meeting, one resident said it was expected house values in Rhebogue would plummet by “at least 30%”.

There was also anger, with claims there was no consultation between the local authority, councillors and residents.

Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O’Hanlon, who lives in the area but – due to boundary changes in 2013 no longer represents Rhebogue – said: “I’m a councillor for a long time, and on this proposal, there was absolutely no consultation whatsoever with the local community or councillors. This was done by faceless bureaucrats between City Council and the Department of the Environment. They picked a spot, thought ‘Lovely job, we will build 21 houses there, and hopefully the people of Rhebogue will be quiet about it’.”

He insisted the opposition is “not about discrimination or segregation,” pointing out there is already a mix of housing in Rhebogue, as well as a halting site.

Cllr O’Hanlon said he was informed about the proposed houses through an email from council housing director Caroline Curley.

He asked a series of questions including whose idea it was to build in Drominbeg, whether council has purchased the lane, and whether the move will need approval by members.

In response, she wrote: “Seeking a social mix has been council and government policy for some time. To the best of my knowledge, planning permission has expired and a new application will have to be made which will have to be decided upon in accordance with the development plan. Council approval is not required per se as funding for Capital Assistance Schemes is done through a grant from the department”.

Instead of building these houses, it was suggested the council look to renovate some of the many boarded up units across Limerick - including “bringing life back to the city centre”.

Mr Murphy said residents would prefer if a play area went on the green land.

But one resident, a homeowner in the estate, said she was disappointed by the “not in my back garden attitude”.

“If we continue with this, we are going to continue having situations where people will be homeless, and families vulnerable. I would have no difficulty with it, as long as it is managed properly,” said the young women who did not wish to be named.