Cllr. Éilis RyanDublin City Councillors have voted down a Workers’ Party proposal that a state company be established in order to build public housing on publicly-owned land.

Reacting to the vote, Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan said: “At this evening’s (Monday) city council meeting, I proposed that, instead of proceeding blindly into another failed PPP scheme, Dublin City Council should step back, and consider if its possible to do the same job with a public company.

Cllr. Ryan said that the proposal – for a state company which can borrow off balance sheet to be used to deliver housing, in lieu of a private developer – was similar to a lengthy report produced by the Nevin Institute last week.

There is now widespread agreement amongst progressive voices that the best way to solve the housing crisis is through the establishment of a state or semi-state housing company which can borrow funds off balance sheet and rent the housing it builds to both low- and middle-income households.

This type of a proposal must be done now – while we still own the land. There is no point saying we will consider proposals such as this further down the line. By then the land we own will long have been sold off.

Cllr. Ryan concluded that the extent of support across the political spectrum on the council for privatisation of housing is disappointing.

I was not surprised that Fine Gael dismissed the idea of a state company. But it is disappointing that Sinn Féin and Labour, who purport to support public housing have chosen to plough ahead with a PPP mechanism which has failed so many times before.

Full wording of the amendment proposed by the Workers’ Party to item 13 of the city council agenda

“In relation to Report 96/2017 (Report on a Proposed Section 85 Agreement Regarding the Provision of Social Housing via a Public Private Partnership under the Social Housing Strategy 2020);
– The council notes that EU debt rules do not automatically consider public borrowing to be ‘on balance sheet’ if done by a commercially viable state or semi-state company
– The council notes the failure of the government to explore the possibility of establishing a state or semi-state company capable of borrowing off balance sheet to build housing
– The council furthermore notes that such public, state companies play a vital role in the provision of social housing in numerous European countries, and their borrowings are not automatically considered on balance sheet
– The council recognises the negative role of the private sector in PPPs in the provision of housing in Dublin
– The council furthermore recognises the broad support for enabling middle-income households to avail of public housing, thereby increasing the state’s ability to repay any borrowings associated with public housing through higher rental streams.

Therefore, the council recommends that the following amendment be made to the motion recommended by the Chief Executive in Report 96/2017 To insert the following sentence at the end of the motion:
“Dublin City Council furthermore commits to exploring fully the possibility, and reporting back to city councillors, on the option of establishing a state company with borrowing capacity which could fulfil the role of “project-company” in the above-outlined PPP initiative, ahead of tendering any non-state/private project company.”