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Social Housing Opinion Piece

Posted 19 Feb. 2017

Social Housing Opinion Piece

Submitted to Meath Chronicle


It's time to listen to what the people that live in our communities want!

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 counties future housing need did not happen. You see Ashbourne is about to have a new 100% social housing estate comprising of 67 houses, built in a town and district with only 5% 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.

Ashbourne in the South East corner of this wonderful county, has for a long time been forgotten about in Meath; an area allowed to grow and develop without much thought for the people who have lived or grown up there. There is a perception that Ashbourne people are not Meath natives, but rather that they are all originally from Dublin. While this is not entirely the case, we do have a large number of residents from Dublin who have chosen Ashbourne's convenient location as the place they want to bring up a family.

In recent years, we've seen some serious investment in the area by Meath County Council and the government with our main street Frederick Street completely refurbished at a cost of €5m. We now have two secondary schools in the town, whereas when I was of school-going age, I was forced to travel to the North Circular Rd in Dublin 1 for my education, back then there wasn't even a bus service to Navan. The town now boasts two primary Gaelscoilleanna, one of those and an Educate Together built on a new schools campus in the Killegland West area of the town costing €24m. This area will also see investment of almost €1m in a long awaited linear park. This area is almost 2kms from the proposed social housing site - a site that I as an elected Councillor was never consulted on; I was never asked my opinion on its suitability or told of future plans near the site for open green space or community facilities.

The schools campus opened its doors in November 2016. The Department of Education bought a large tract of land for the development - much more than was actually required. Some of that land will be coming to the market soon. It has been valued and as far as I'm aware, it will be offered to a state body before public sale. This site is ideal for a mix of social housing including some housing in particular for elderly people and people with disabilities. Part of the land is - it is proposed - to be part of the linear park; in particular a section within a flood plain. It is adjacent to the park, the schools campus, crèches, supermarkets and the retail areas in the town centre: a stone's through away from the new primary care centre, the church, the post office and a number of pharmacies, dental surgeries, physiotherapy centres and various other professional services.

Meath County Council have been buying 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 V's. 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 you 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 dependency 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 will be making a presentation at Ashbourne Municipal District monthly meeting on April 10th. Our monthly meetings take place from 9.30am to 11.30am.