Staunton firm sets up finance partnership talks with UK VC fund and council
Dublin’s local authorities are working on a number of major new projects to build thousands of social and affordable housing units in the capital, the Sunday Independent has learned.
A London-based venture capital fund has held exploratory talks with Dublin City Council chiefs regarding a plan that proposes using a Public-Private Partnership business model to build and retrofit thousands of social housing units in the capital.
Fingal County Council is also advancing plans for a major tranche of 1,200 residential mixed-tenure housing units close to the IBM campus at Church Fields in Mulhuddart. The scheme is similar to one announced last week for Donabate.
The Mulhuddart scheme, which has now moved to the design stage, will provide 1,200 houses with a mix of social and affordable housing, as well as a possibility of some private housing.
The council is expected to lodge a Part 8 planning application in October for a new road to access the site.
Funding proposals for the scheme, which will include apartment buildings up to six storeys, are being examined.
Meanwhile, UK venture capital fund Blue Castle Partners – which has a track record of managing a portfolio of asset-based investments valued at £2bn – hosted a meeting with a number of Dublin City councillors in recent weeks, according to lobbying register filings.
The meeting was facilitated by a social investment vehicle backed by former Dublin hotelier Jim Staunton. Staunton set up investment vehicle Medipro Life after netting €12m from the sale of his Dublin townhouse hotel Stauntons on the Green in 2015.
The investment vehicle is working with Blue Castle Partners and City Council officials on a plan to kick-start a major development drive to solve the capital’s social housing crisis.
Lobbying register filings reveal the discussions explored “ways to finance the construction of homes for the DCC [Dublin City Council]. Discussions also took place in regard to the additional streams of revenue for the DCC as well as fire-safety standards” and new technology to reduce energy costs.
Medipro Life CEO John Kidd, a former Siptu official and firefighter, said the ambitious proposals tabled at the meeting could slash council waiting lists, which currently stand at an estimated 20,000 families and individuals.
“We support the proposals by Dublin City Council’s head of housing, deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny, for a large-scale rezoning of industrial estates in central Dublin for new housing, as this would transform the landscape of the city,” said Kidd. “We want to build thousands of new energy efficient homes and retrofit thousands of old housing stock to help solve the social housing crisis once and for all. We have secured the finance for the project. Now we want to work with the council to help deliver it.”
In a letter sent to Dublin City Council chiefs in support of the exploratory talks, Blue Castle Partners executive director Edward L Williams confirmed his firm’s interest.
“Blue Castle Partners would like to express an interest to participate in an innovative partnership programme with Dublin City Council,” he wrote. “We believe that our involvement could provide financial instruments to address outstanding issues regarding social and affordable housing by building 20,000 carbon-neutral units.”
Dublin West Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison, who chairs Fingal’s economic development committee said that the funding model for the Mulhuddart scheme was still under discussion but that there was a push on in the county council to move the scheme to the building phase as quickly as possible.
“It is the first time this local authority has built on this scale and we are putting in a lot of the infrastructure and facilities in advance,” he said.