Report back from Threshold seminar last Tuesday.
Report + 2 short audio MP3 interviews to download.
Approximately 50 housing activists, local residents, Threshold representatives and other individuals met up in the Gresham Hotel on Tuesday morning last week, for a seminar called "The Regeneration Game: Urban Regeneration & Community Involvement". The seminar was hosted by Threshold, which is a national housing organisation dedicated to ensuring housing and tenants rights for all.
The Director of Threshold Patrick Burke opened the seminar, and the first speaker was Declan Redmond, from the Dept. of Planning & Environmental Policy in UCD. He gave a presentation entitled "Government Policy on Social Housing Regeneration & PPPs", which focused on the many different policies which come into play with the construction of social & affordable housing. He called into question the logic and viability of PPP's (Public Private Partnerships), and speculated on the real reasons why the State was pushing PPPs rather than building long term social housing units. He also demonstrated Arnstein's "Ladder of Empowerment", which detailed the levels of citizen power, from the highs of "citizen control", "delegated power" and "partnership", to the lows of "cynical consultation" and "civic hype".
Next to speak was John Bissett from St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore. Rather than repeat his interpretation of the timeline of events from the campaign in St Michael's Estate, he felt it would be better to address the concept of State power and how it exerts itself on a disempowered community. He also examined the structures of power around the issue of the estate being redeveloped & privatised, which had been a learning process for all involved in the struggle there. The residents concept of the sphere of influence in the decisions being made expanded beyond their immediate environs as time progressed, taking in not just immediate bodies like community groups and Dublin City Council, but also more distant yet subtle bodies such as the European Union. It was an interesting and thought provoking presentation.
Joe O'Donoghue & Dorothy Walker from Fatima Groups United spoke next and talked about their experiences with the redevelopment of the Fatima Mansions complex in Dublin 8. They seemed reasonably positive and upbeat with the results they had gained from the extensive & exhaustive negotiations with Dublin City Council. Fatima Mansions is being redeveloped under a PPP. The final agreement allows for 150 public housing units, 70 affordable units, and a maximum of 369 private apartments; as well as a new purpose built neighbourhood centre, a leisure centre including a gym & swimming pool, and a retail and enterprise incubator space. They also mentioned how in Fatima Mansions they established an overarching representative community structure, which moved from a moral to a legitimate representation, when the majority of the community got involved, so the State couldnt undermine the community mandate.
Lena Jordan from O'Devaney Gardens at the west end of the North Circular Road in Dublin 7 was the final person to speak from the residents groups. O'Devaney Gardens is currently being redeveloped under a PPP scheme, and Lena talked about how the estate has been (under)managed over the years by Dublin City Council, the lack of resources and funding, and how issues such as poverty and drugs affected the community. She also outlines the hopes for the future with the redevelopment, and the possibilities & choices that local people have when it comes to further stages of negotiation between the tenants and local authorities.
Sinead Kelly from Trinity College Dublin gave a final shortened presentation due to time constraints, basically recapping the points that Declan Redmond had made earlier.
The attendees then split into two groups of about 20 people each for workshops. One dealt with the Future Direction of Housing Policy, the other with Community Participation in Housing Redevelopment Projects. In the second workshop, local residents from Tenants First, a grassroots community organisation representing tenants from local authoriy flat complexes around Dublin, talked of how it was sometimes difficult to engage people to fight against PPPs. If tenants have been disempowered for years, and their housing has been not maintained or repaired, then as soon as the offer of a new place comes along, people jump at the chance to escape from squalor - even if it may not be the best solution in the long run.
They also talked about how they can encourage other tenants to get involved in the campaign, and how that giving people as much information as possible was one of the best ways to educate and agitate. The phrase 'PPP' was not common knowledge among ordinary people. Another point was how to deal with authorities with massive power and resources, in comparison to poor communities who have constantly been under pressure; and how a local community can respond when the State starts to considerably exert that power.
Overall it was an interesting and encouraging seminar, and community workers plan to meet again in the new year to discuss their options, and share resources and information with each other so they can help each other with future struggles.
In the first audio clip, Joe O'Donoghue from Fatima Groups United talks about the regeneration plan for Fatima Mansions, and also explains what Tenants First is about.
In the second audio clip, Christine Taylor, who is a community worker with ICON in the North East Inner City, talks about Tenants First, the upcoming PPP plans in flat complexes around the city, the response from council flat tenants about the possibility of purchase, and current problems with social housing in Killarney Court (ex St Josephs Mansions in Summerhill) and Clarion Quay in the IFSC (re-housed residents from the old Sherriff Street flats).
Listen to Joe O'Donoghue from Fatima Mansions by clicking here to start downloading the MP3. The filesize is 3.0 megabytes.
Listen to Christine Taylor from ICON by clicking here to start downloading the MP3. The filesize is 7.3 megabytes.