Monday 26 February 2018

€4.7m plan to house 400 homeless families in flats complex is scrapped

Michelle Harmon, one of the few remaining residents of O'Devaney Gardens resident
Michelle Harmon, one of the few remaining residents of O'Devaney Gardens resident
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

A multi-million euro plan to house up to 400 homeless families in a Dublin flats complex has been scrapped.

Under a Dublin City Council (DCC) management proposal, 64 units in O’Devaney Gardens in Arbour Hill were to be refurbished at a cost of €4.7m for emergency accommodation for homeless families.

The units, which would only have had a five-year lifespan, had already been listed for demolition.

However, tonight 43 Dublin city councillors voted in favour of a motion which saw the plan scrapped.

The main arguments were that the money could be used in a better way; the units would result in sub-standard accommodation; and that it was simply a temporary solution to the homeless crisis.

Lord Mayor Christy Burke tabled the motion that saw the proposal being abandoned.

“The plan should be to build social housing on the site and to facilitate the 14 residents that are already there,” Mr Burke said.

He also stated that he had arranged a meeting with Housing Minister Paudie Coffey to find another solution, as well as investigating other options such as using void units or properties repossessed by banks to house homeless families.

“I approached the Archbishop (of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin) to use the convents that are empty,” he added.

Read more: Residents angry at plan to house 400 homeless families

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn was in favour of the O’Devaney Gardens proposal.

“This should not be taken off the agenda, this is where families are in horrendous conditions and we can turn their lives around in three months where they can have a level of independence,” Mr Flynn said.

DCC CEO Owen Keegan said it was “fundamentally an executive decision” to go ahead with the plan unless councillors used a special section of local government legislation to block him.

Councillors used section 139 of the Local Government Act 2001 to direct Mr Keegan to not proceed with the proposal.

The CEO told councillors that he “strongly recommended” that they do not use this section of the legislation.

Before the councillors voted on the issue, Mr Keegan said that he would not bring the plan to them again, unless there were major changes in circumstances.

Fine Gael councillor Noel Rock, who voted to stop the plan, said letting it go ahead would mean councillors were only “running to stand still”.

“The whole case doesn’t stack up – paying for emergency hotel accommodation and paying for refurbishment of buildings we want to demolish in five years anyway just means we’re forever running to stand still,” Mr Rock said.

Originally, there was to be a vote to defer the plan but last night’s decision means it has now been abandoned.

The Lord Mayor also said that the €4.72m could be used to buy 38 homes in the capital to help address the housing crisis.

Fr Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Day Centre also welcomed the decision of Dublin City Council in respect of O’Devaney Gardens.

“I’m delighted. It would have been appalling to think of putting homeless people and little children into those conditions. It’s not at all appropriate for young families.

“We need homeless people to be treated with dignity and respect,” he added.

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