Saturday 21 September 2019

'Fast-track' flats won't be finished until late next year

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Frank McGrath
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Frank McGrath

Laura Larkin and Kevin Doyle

A thousand so-called 'fast-track' apartments announced almost six months ago will not be built until late 2019 or even 2020.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed plans to use factory-built apartments at various sites in Dublin and other towns following a housing summit with local authority chiefs last July.

However, the Irish Independent has learned that no timeline has yet been set for the delivery of the much-needed apartments, which are planned for use as social housing, and it is anticipated that "some units" will be delivered in late 2019 or early 2020.

The first "volumetric apartments" - built off-site, including fittings and finishes, and stacked on-site - will be installed on Bunratty Road in Coolock, north Dublin.

Other sites where it is expected the apartments will be built are at feasibility stage.

One proposal has been submitted by Dublin City Council (DCC), with others expected to follow, and these will be given "priority attention due to the current housing situation", according to the Department of Housing. It is anticipated that the apartments will be built in relatively small lots.

Asked about the lengthy timeline for the delivery of the apartments, a spokesperson said that it was "always necessary that a procurement framework of design-build contractors for the delivery of social housing and apartments would be established by DCC".

A tender was issued by DCC in September seeking contractors to deliver the factory-built units. A second-stage progress for lot two of the framework is under way, with a deadline of December 21.

The council expects to award the initial contract at the end of January, provided there is no delay with the contract.

Modular housing has been used in the UK to address housing shortages, but similar projects in Ireland have faced substantial delays.

The apartments were one of a range of measures announced by Mr Murphy following the third in a series of regular meetings in the Custom House in Dublin with the heads of all of the local authorities to discuss the ongoing housing crisis.

After that meeting, the minister also said that the State would target some 1,000 homes that were owned by banks and other financial institutions.

At the end of October, the Housing Agency had accepted bids on 893 homes, a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, planned "family hubs" in Galway and Louth in conjunction with the Peter McVerry Trust are still at the procurement phase.

Under the plans, the temporary family hubs will consist of clusters of prefabricated individual units which will be operated as a hub, meaning residents will have access to wraparound support.

It is expected that the work on the pilot sites will be carried out in the first three months of next year.

In July, Mr Murphy also said that a policy statement on the need to "ensure delivery of housing for older people and the need to support downsizing for older people" would be published "shortly".

Asked for this statement, a spokesperson pointed to a conference held last week, led by Junior Housing Minister Damien English and Minister with Responsibility for Older People Jim Daly, which brought together experts in housing for older people to discuss options for elderly people who wished to live in the community, rather than a nursing home setting.

Separately, Mr Murphy yesterday declined to "speculate" on the latest homelessness figures, which are due to be released later this week.

The minister said he hoped to see "some positive results".

He said the four local authorities in Dublin had been doing "a huge amount of work" to put solutions in place, adding that the focus was very much on trying to find homes for families and children.

Figures for the month of September show there were 9,698 people homeless, including 3,829 children.

Irish Independent

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