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The Sale of the Century continues in Dublin 8...
dublin | housing | feature Monday May 09, 2005 15:52 by kevin - (with help from the Chamber Court and Weaver Court Redevelopment Group)
What is happening in Chamber Court and Weaver Court?
Dublin City Council continues to sell off its public housing stock...
Chamber Court and Weaver Court is a small development of flats owned by Dublin City Council, just off Cork Street in the Coombe area of Dublin's south inner city. There are three blocks altogether, with approximately 60 units occupied at present. The two blocks lying perpendicular and fronting out onto Cork Street are known as Chamber Court, and the single block to the south of Chamber Street is Weaver Court. At present the Dublin 8 area is undergoing large regeneration, similar to that which is happening in Smithfield in Dublin 7, with the construction of large blocks of private apartments, with large price tags to match. The area had been neglected for many years and was considered an undesirable part of town, but is now being capitalised on by private developers for its proximity to the city centre.
Dublin City Council appears to be pursuing a policy with Chamber Court that mirrors that of the redevelopment of St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore. In St. Michael's Estate, the Council deliberately left many decent housing units vacant in an attempt to run down the estate, so the remaining familiies would leave and hence the land could be redeveloped under a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) scheme. Rita Fagan, a community activist in St Michael's said "they run the flats down on purpose. The necessary maintenance isn’t done. People find it very hard to live and want to move out." This is part of a wider strategy across the city where the Council is selling off its housing stock, and where possible taking existing public housing and redeveloping it, but with as much private housing squeezed into the space as possible.
Looking around Chamber Court and Weaver Court, you can see that many of the units have the steel panels up over the windows and doors, despite the fact that the buildings are in good condition, and the surroundings are well maintained. Residents of the two complexes recently held an awareness-raising day to try and get people involved in the decision making process that will ultimately affect the future of where they live. They are trying to encourage the remaining families to become active in the campaign to ensure that the wishes of the local community are respected.
The residents handed out a leaflet which outlined the current situation: "Dublin City Council is now proposing to sell off the Chamber Court site to private developers, and to use the money from the sale to replace Weaver Court with City Council housing (apartments and/or duplexes). In this case, the Weaver Court site would consist entirely of City Council units. On the Chamber Court site, 70% would be private apartments and 30% would be affordable housing. In the meantime the Council is also planning to build 45 apartments and duplexes at the 'Timber Yard' site, between the new Cork Street extension and Brabazon Street. Residents of Chamber and Weaver Court will have 'first option' on homes in the 'Timber Yard' development. We would now like every resident of Chamber and Weaver Court to tell us which of the options [see graphic below] they would like us to try to get the City Council to agree to. We need to know your opinion, otherwise we do not know how to respond to Dublin City Council."
At the moment, the residents are getting advice from an independent architect, and are meeting regularly to discuss the situation. At the information day however, some expressed dissatisfaction with the current process of consultation with Dublin City Council, saying that the Council was merely giving an illusion/simulation of residents involvement with the planning stages; in reality it was more a token gesture than anything else - the Council were simply informing the residents of what was going to happen, regardless of their wishes. This tactic was raised by John Bissett of St. Michael's Estate at a meeting of housing activists late last year, ranking under Placation, Consultation, or Informing in the 'Tokenism' range of citizen participation.
According to Sherry Arnstein's "Ladder of Citizen Participation", this tokenistic level of consultation "can be a legitimate step toward their [the community's] full participation. But if consulting them is not combined with other modes of participation, this rung of the ladder is still a sham since it offers no assurance that citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account. The most frequent methods used for consulting people are attitude surveys, neighborhood meetings, and public hearings. When powerholders restrict the input of citizens' ideas solely to this level, participation remains just a window-dressing ritual. People are primarily perceived as statistical abstractions, and participation is measured by how many come to meetings, take brochures home, or answer a questionnaire. What citizens achieve in all this activity is that they have "participated in participation." And what powerholders achieve is the evidence that they have gone through the required motions of involving "those people"."
Residents of Chamber and Weaver Court were unhappy with the development of private gated apartments on the site, believing that this would only contribute to existing levels of division between long term residents of the area (many of whom are living in low-density public housing) and new arrivals. They also felt that the continuing privatisation of Council homes and land meant that in the long term there will be no social housing available in the area for those that need it most.