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So. what does 'regeneration' really mean?
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The word regeneration means to revive, restore or rejuvenate. When "regeneration" comes on the agenda for housing estates, it generally means there are massive changes ahead for local residents and the surrounding areas.

To date, the experience of regeneration of estates in Dublin tells us that some dramatic physical and social changes are planned. It's not exactly the same in each estate, but in general what the Regeneration Agencies and Limerick City Council aim to do goes along the following lines:

  • The area will be significantly depopulated and existing homes will be demolished to clear the land. (In Dublin this process was called de-tenanting.)

  • Redevelopment of the land at a much higher density meaning more housing, apartment blocks and a substantial increase in population.

  • Regenerated area will have a mix of private, affordable & public housing / apartments. Here in Limerick it has been stated that social housing will be only be provided for council tenants that are in the area when the building is complete.

  • Remaining residents will be rehoused either on site or in other places.

In short, the regeneration process involves: Depopulation - Demolition - Redevelopment.

The regeneration process takes years from start to finish. Here in Limerick, it is now anticipated that regeneration will be completed by 2018, although it will probably take longer because of the collapse of the property market.

In Dublin, the experience of St. Michael's Estate and similar regeneration projects like Fatima Mansions and Ballymun shows that substantial sections of the population leave the estate before the whole process of regeneration is finished. In Limerick the depopulation and demolition phase is being overseen by the City Council while the Regeneration Agency fund the depopulation and produce plans for redevelopment.

Most of the work will not be carried out directly by the City Council in the traditional way; instead the Regeneration Agency will enter into a deal with a private developer, who will become the key driver of the project (this is called public-private partnership (PPP), an approach encouraged by government since 2001.

The public housing and community facilities are funded mainly through the sale of private apartments and houses. Some new facilities may be developed, but what you get will ultimately depend on the deal that is struck between the Regeneration Agency and the private developer.

In May 2008 Dublin City Council shelved five regeneration projects when the PPP model collapsed as the developer pulled out, citing the downturn in the housing market. Two of the projects were on unoccupied sites and the others, (St Michael's Estate, O'Devaney Gardens and Dominic Street) were at an advanced stage in the process, with residents having signed off on plans and picked a developer in January 2007. Indeed, the residents of St. Michael's had agreed to the demolition of their estate in 1998!

Some of the same people that oversaw the regeneration projects in Dublin are now overseeing the regeneration of Limerick. Although the Limerick Regeneration Agencies deny that PPP is the preferred model, at the launch of the draft 'Master Plan' it was announced that regeneration would cost €3 Billion, with €1.3 Billion coming from private investors and €1.7 Billion coming from the government.

However, what most people don't realise is that most of that €1.7 Billion is not cold hard cash; it is the value that has been placed on the land. So, if you're living in a regeneration area and wondering "is the money there?" wonder no more. The money is there all right; you're living on it!

Regeneration areas have deteriorated drastically since the establishment of the regeneration agencies. Far from restoring "confidence and stability", anti-social behaviour waxes and wanes, illegal dumping is rife and the rats are thriving; encouraging people to leave.

Why should residents have to wait for the housing market to 'recover' to see improvements in their area?

Another kind of regeneration, centred on social and Community needs, is possible - a Community Agenda. But that will depend on how well your Community can organise and act to influence the future of your estate.