First 'modular' homes to be put in use by Christmas
At least 22 homeless families will be housed in so-called modular houses by Christmas after the Government approved a €40m investment in 500 units.
Around 150 will be delivered under a fast-track procurement process by early next year, and the remainder over 2016, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said.
The move comes as figures from September show there are 3,428 adults and 1,571 children living in emergency accommodation across the State - a rise on those without a home in August.
Of these, 738 are families, with the vast majority - at 637 - in the capital.
The modular homes will be used across the four Dublin local authorities, and councils have been directed to use fast-track planning powers so the houses can be in place as quickly as possible.
Dublin City Council has sought tenders to deliver 22 two-storey units on a site in North Dublin, which will include three bedrooms and are designed to accommodate five people.
The closing date for receipt of tenders is next November 2, and the homes must be ready for occupation no later than December 21.
"The Government has made a decision in relation to funding for 500 modular units at an approximate cost of €40m," Mr Kelly said.
"These units will be, by and large, used to help people who are in difficulty as regards housing in the Dublin area in particular. A number of units will be delivered before Christmas. I've directed the local authorities to ensure they deliver this as quickly as absolutely possible."
The prefabricated houses can be assembled within days and include bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and storage facilities. They must last for at least 60 years, and must be capable of being expanded to provide more living accommodation.
"Kitchen, dining and living room areas should be designed to have as much natural light incorporated into the design as possible and take into account the orientation of the sun in relation to the main living rooms," tender documents add.
"The quality of the overall design is very important in the long term in relation to the maintenance and management of the development, but also in the interests of the residents and the quality of the environment that they will be living in."
Families housed in the units will not be considered as being housed on a permanent basis, and will remain on local authority waiting lists. However, the units will form part of the council's housing stock.
However, Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen questioned whether the homes could be delivered before Christmas.
"We still have been given no definitive indication as to what existing planning legislation allows them to be fast-tracked," he said. "If the normal planning process is to be followed, we are still looking at 12 to 18 months for delivery, which is no different to building a conventional house."