TWO families were each handed the keys to their dream homes yesterday after two derelict council buildings -- which lay abandoned for over 10 years -- were transformed.
The Greene family, formerly from Pearse Street, Dublin, and the Corcoran clan, who have lived in the Liberties in Dublin for over 20 years, have become homeowners for the first time.
Yesterday they happily welcomed President Michael D Higgins for a guided tour of their new homes in Inchicore.
With a record number of derelict properties lying idle across the city, the Habitat for Humanity group and Dublin City Council joined forces 18 months ago to embark on a new venture to transform two derelict buildings and make them habitable.
The two lucky families were chosen from the Dublin City Council housing list based on their level of need, their ability to pay a mortgage, and their willingness to devote 500 hours to refurbishing the buildings.
The council has provided each family with a 20-year €105,000 mortgage through its House Purchase Loan Scheme.
Keith Greene, along with his partner Jennifer and two young children Nathan (4) and Alex (2), was still in awe yesterday at how much extra space they would now have compared to where they were living before.
"Coming from where I'm living at the moment this is an incredible feeling. I never thought I'd be a homeowner because we never had an income that enabled us to even apply for a mortgage," Mr Greene told the Irish Independent.
"We're living in a flat complex with one bed between four of us. But now we'll have our own bedrooms, which is a dream come true."
Mr Higgins praised the effort by all concerned in bringing renewed hope into people's lives, while also condemning the "artificiality" of property speculation during the Celtic Tiger.
"There was something not just artificial, but morally questionable, about the notion that people could make speculative profit out of a housing shortage as it was called at the time," he said. "This is an area of human existence that should not have been treated in this particular way and now we are left with an enormous problem."
"This is not a giveaway programme. Dublin City provides the house and the mortgage pays for the majority of the refurbishment work," said Jeannie McCann from Habitat for Humanity Ireland. "These people have contributed what we call 'sweat equity' which means they must devote 500 hours to the refurbishment of the buildings."