Northern Housing Minister Gordon Lyons MLA: Housing priorities
4th July 2024
Housing crisis: Social home output
4th July 2024

Circle VHA: Landmark direct construction provides 47 homes

Derek O’Shea; John Delahunty; Stuart Muldowney; Brian Kelly; and Paul Martin from the Construction and Corporate Banking Team in AIB, pictured alongside John Hannigan CEO of Circle VHA celebrating the launch of Railway Court, Dublin 1.

Circle Voluntary Housing Association (VHA) proudly celebrates the completion of 47 new homes at Railway Court, Dublin 1. This milestone project, achieved through an innovative €16 million partnership with AIB, marks Circle’s first direct construction initiative.

Breaking new ground in affordable housing

The Railway Court development stands on the former Liberty House site in Dublin’s city centre. The scheme provides a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom homes for social housing on a brown-field site, which had previously been vacant for over seven years.

This project represents a significant step forward for Circle VHA, setting a new benchmark for social housing funding and delivery in Ireland. The €16 million funding deal with AIB is the first of its kind in the country, supporting the project from inception to long-term ownership under a 30-year investment facility.

Innovative funding and construction

Innovative €16 Million funding deal with AIB: This landmark agreement is groundbreaking, enabling the funding of the entire project, from development through to long-term ownership. The dual funding approach allows AIB to provide construction funds, which then convert into a long-term investment facility, repaid over 30 years. This ensures that Circle VHA has a single line of sight on the provision and maintenance of these homes, offering financial stability and predictability.

Circle VHA’s first direct construction project: This project marks a pivotal moment in Circle’s mission to increase its direct construction output, aligning with government and Housing For All objectives for the approved housing body (AHB) sector. With aspirations to have direct construction constitute one-third of their total home delivery this year, Circle aims to reach 50 per cent in the future.

High-quality, sustainable homes

Commitment to sustainability: The Railway Court homes are built to the highest specifications, achieving an ‘A’ energy rating. This commitment to sustainability includes the use of innovative construction methods and materials that ensure energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact. Features such as high-performance insulation, energy-efficient windows, and renewable energy sources like solar panels underscore Circle’s dedication to creating environmentally responsible housing.

Community and social impact: Railway Court significantly enhances Dublin city centre’s housing landscape by fostering a thriving, inclusive community. The development includes a residential courtyard, a play area, and a new community facility on the ground floor. These features support social cohesion and community engagement, creating a welcoming environment where tenants can connect and thrive.

Allocation and community development

Fair and transparent housing allocation: The 47 homes at Railway Court are allocated through a choice-based letting system, ensuring a fair and transparent process. This method empowers tenants by allowing them to choose their homes, fostering a sense of ownership and belonging. The allocation process is already underway, with new tenants preparing to move into their homes soon.

Strategic community development: The mix of one, two, and three-bedroom homes accommodates diverse family sizes and dynamics, contributing to a vibrant, mixed community. The new community facility on the ground floor enhances the communal living experience.

Derek O’Shea; John Delahunty; Stuart Muldowney; Brian Kelly; and Paul Martin from the Construction and Corporate Banking Team in AIB, pictured alongside John Hannigan CEO of Circle VHA celebrating the launch of Railway Court, Dublin 1.

John Hannigan, CEO of Circle VHA, expressed his excitement at the launch of these new homes: “We are thrilled to celebrate these new homes at Railway Court, made possible by our groundbreaking €16 million funding partnership with AIB. This innovative funding facility ensures that we at Circle have a single line of sight on the provision of these 47 homes from breaking ground for construction to funding the long-term ownership of the homes over the 30-year investment period.

“We are grateful for the continued support from the Department of Housing and Dublin City Council and look forward to expanding our portfolio with similar projects.”

AIB’s commitment to social housing

AIB’s support for this project reflects its broader commitment to the social housing sector as part of its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategy. AIB has a long-standing relationship with Circle VHA, with approximately €60 million in borrowing from the bank. This new funding facility represents a unique dual approach, providing funds for construction and committing to long-term investment.

Looking ahead

The Railway Court development is a significant addition to Circle VHA’s expanding portfolio, which includes over 2,500 managed homes nationwide. Locally, Circle VHA manages 109 homes in the nearby Sean Treacy and Peadar Kearney developments. Through this new development Circle is further embedding itself in the community and demonstrating a long-term commitment to addressing housing needs in Dublin. With two more construction projects currently underway and several in the planning stages, Circle is poised to make a substantial impact on Ireland’s social housing landscape.

The completion of Circle VHA’s Railway Court project is a testament to the power of innovative funding and sustainable construction in addressing Ireland’s affordable housing crisis. By delivering 47 high-quality, energy-efficient homes in Dublin city centre, Circle VHA is not only providing immediate relief to families in need but also setting a precedent for future developments. This project exemplifies how strategic partnerships and a commitment to sustainability can transform the social housing sector, ensuring that more families across Ireland have access to safe, affordable, and environmentally responsible homes.

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