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Serious concerns raised on PPP social housing proposals – Ó Broin

14 March, 2017 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Department of Housing to urgently provide clarity on the public private partnership proposals (PPP) for social housing construction projects across Dublin and the neighbouring counties of Louth, Wicklow, and Kildare. This is the first time that the Design, Build, and Operate model has been proposed for social housing development.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Sinn Féin team across Dublin have been looking at the proposals for the social housing PPPs and have a number of concerns. I raised the matter in the Joint Oireachtas Housing Committee last week with the Secretary General of the Department of Housing John McCarthy.

“It is due to these concerns that our councillors in Dublin City and on South Dublin county council have taken a decision to postpone taking a decision on the current proposals until more information is provided by the Department of Housing. 

“We do not want to delay the delivery of the much needed social housing. However, the right decision was made to seek a deferral as the concerns raised are significant and merit further consideration.

“The Department is proposing that private developers design, build and maintain the social houses for a period of 25 years. During that time the State will pay down the developers’ costs. At the end of the 25 years, the units will be owned by the local authority.

"This model is currently used in a range of other construction projects such as schools, hospitals, and water treatment plants. Many believe that they do not represent value for money for the taxpayer.

"It is not clear from the limited information provided by Department as to why this model is being proposed for social housing delivery. In particular it is unclear why the design and maintenance elements have been included in the tenders. 

"As the Department of Housing has not provided any information on the potential cost of this proposal, it is also not clear whether it represents value for money for the taxpayer. 

“I suspect the Department of Housing is not the origin of this proposal. For whatever reason, it appears that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister Pascal Donoghue are promoting this model in order to reduce the upfront cost of social housing new build. 

"Whatever the origin of proposal, it is not reasonable to expect councillors to take a decision on the proposal blind to the potential costs. 

“The following question needs to be answered by the Department before councillors can vote on proposals to potentially spend billions of euro of taxpayers money. 

“What will the public sector benchmark figure be for the purposes of determining whether the tenders for these projects represent value for money?  Under the current PPP proposals, the developer will be responsible for the maintaining the units for 25 years. This is factored in to the public sector benchmark figures. Will the elected members be told what this benchmark figure is prior to voting to approve these schemes?

“Until Sinn Féin elected representatives in the areas concerned have answers to these questions, we will hold off on making on decision on these projects. I will be raising the matter again with officials in Minister Coveney’s department this week.” 

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