Affordable housing body seeks to sell interest in major south Dublin project amid funding shortfall

Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance looking to sell its 400-unit interest in 635-unit project in Killinarden to Land Development Agency

A prominent housing body is seeking to sell its interest in a major Dublin project to the State housing agency in order to bridge a funding shortfall.

The Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance, which has developed a widely-cited model for affordable housing, was due to deliver almost 400 affordable homes out of 635 units planned at the Foothills in Killinarden, south Co Dublin, in a joint venture with builder Sisk – the largest development Ó Cualann has been part of.

But the approved housing body (AHB) said it was facing a funding shortfall and was now looking to sell its interest in the project to the Land Development Agency (LDA).

Ó Cualann chief executive Hugh Brennan said the decision to seek a sale to the LDA was a “pre-emptive step” as the AHB is struggling to access early-stage financing due to its model.

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While Ó Cualann is mostly focused on affordable housing, the Government’s wider housing plan relies on AHBs to deliver about 45 per cent of social housing, with the sector concentrated in a few larger outfits but hundreds more smaller bodies spread around the country.

Mr Brennan said Ó Cualann cannot access some of the same funding streams as other AHBs because it does not own or manage any properties, and that it could not raise equity. “We really struggle with early-stage funding and because we are not limited by shares we can’t even exchange shares for equity,” he said.

He said there was no risk to the overall enterprise and that no adverse events had been notified to the AHB regulator. “We can pay our debts and running costs as they fall due, absolutely,” he said.

It is understood that the entity is facing early-stage funding requirements across its pipeline of about €3.7 million, and that about €2 million of this relates to the Killinarden project. A sale of its interest in Killinarden would enable it to invest in the rest of its pipeline of projects, Mr Brennan said.

The LDA confirmed it is examining a “potential role ... to ensure the delivery of homes on the Foothills Killinarden development”.

“The agency is engaging with the relevant parties to establish if it can help to catalyse the development, which can deliver over 600 homes. As the State’s affordable housing delivery body, the LDA aims to maximise the supply of affordable and social homes in a financially sustainable manner.

“Conscious of its role as a custodian of public money, the LDA is currently undertaking a process of due diligence, which will take a number of months. It will also ensure that the local authority is satisfied with any arrangement which may be reached, before it moves forward.”

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