An Ashbourne councillor has raised serious concerns about a social housing estate being built at Milltown and Archerstown, Ashbourne, and fears that mistakes from that past are being repeated and could lead to the creation of a future 'no-go area'.
Cllr Alan Tobin (below) does not believe it is the right location for social houses due to a lack of infractructure in the area and its distance from town but has also expressed dismay at the approach of providing social housing in a large housing estate and favours a mix of social and private housing for better integration. He asked: “Have we learned nothing from the past” and in ten years time will it be “an additional no-go area riddled with drugs, burnt out cars, high levels of state dependancy and crime?”
A total of 67 houses are being built in the estate which will be managed by the Cluid Housing Agency with tenants coming from the Meath County Council housing list. Cluid is due to give a presentation to councillors at the Ashbourne Municipal District meeting on 10th April.
Cllr Tobin said: “I would like to voice my opinion to what I believe may be the exact panic ridden knee-jerk reaction to the housing crisis that we all feared would come to a head if proper forward-thinking planning for our county’s future housing needs did not happen.
“Ashbourne is about to have a new 100 per cent social housing estate comprising of 67 houses, built in a town and district with only five per cent of the social housing stock in Meath. The estate is being built over 1km outside the town centre in an area with totally inadequate infrastructure.
He said the new schools campus and proposed linear park area is almost 2kms from the proposed social housing site which he was never consulted on as an elected councillor. “ I was never asked my opinion on its suitability or told of future plans near the site for open green space or community facilities.”
Cllr Tobin said the Department of Education bought a large tract of land to develop the schools’ campus, more than was required, and some of that land will be coming to the market soon and would have been a more suitable location as it is adjacent to the proposed park, the schools campus, crèches, supermarkets and the retail areas in the town centre and other facilities.
“Meath County Council have acquired properties in Ashbourne over the last two years or so, in a number of the private residential estates. These are what are known as Part Vs. New families have moved into these areas that, in effect, mix socio-economic backgrounds in what is the ideal way to ensure that we do not end up marginalising people in estates at the edge of town with no social infrastructure, left to their own devices with little or no support from those that agreed to put them there in the first place.
“So I ask these questions: have we learnt nothing from the past? Are we repeating the same mistakes again and again? Is this location really the best we have to offer?”
In 10 years time, will this estate in Archerstown, Ashbourne next to Ashbourne Golf Club and White Ash Park be an additional no-go area riddled with drugs, burnt out cars, high levels of state dependancy and crime?
“Or could it be different? Clúid Housing Agency think it will be. They are the agency charged with managing the estate. Time will tell.”
Clúid Housing spokesperson Lucinda Murrihy said they worked closely with Meath County Council last year to purchase the 67 units in Milltown, Ashbourne; due for completion in four stages throughout 2017.
“Meath County Council informed us of the need for affordable housing in the area, and supported us in achieving the funding. We conducted a sustainable development audit, as per the Department’s requirements, and all stakeholders agreed that the proposed scheme would be an excellent addition to the local community.”
The scheme is funded using a small government loan to leverage a larger bank loan from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA).
“The scheme in Milltown is a fantastic opportunity to bring much needed housing to people on low incomes in the area. Once the development is complete, Meath County Council will refer households from their waiting list; many of whom have been waiting for a home for years. We are working closely with Meath County Council to ensure a positive mix of tenure; including older people, families, single people, and people with disabilities,” said Ms Murrihy.
“Ashbourne has become quite a built up commuter town in recent years; however there is very little affordable housing available. These 67 units are an opportunity to bring diversity and a whole new dimension to the area; in this way we are achieving a mixed community for the area. From time to time we do receive concerns to social housing in an area. However our experience indicates that initial concerns largely dissipate once the new development is completed and occupied.
“As with all our schemes across the country we aim to deliver a seamless integration within the community. The development will add value to the town and will inject positively into the local economy.
“The standard of these new homes in Milltown is what we should expect of good, quality housing. The tenants will pay an affordable rent based on their income; so if their income increases, their rent rises and if it drops, so too does their rent. We look forward to meeting with members of the community at the Ashbourne MDC meeting to provide further information on the development and to answer topical queries.” Clúid Housing is the largest housing association in Ireland, delivering 155 homes to date in Meath.