Council spends more than €2m on Priory Hall

Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 01:00

MORE THAN €2 million has been spent by Dublin City Council on the Priory Hall apartment complex since it was evacuated due to safety concerns one year ago.

Half of the money has been spent on the accommodation costs of almost 100 residents evacuated on October 14th last, and almost €700,000 has been spent on security for the vacant complex.

Residents of the north Dublin apartments were evacuated by order of the High Court until remedial work to address fire safety and other problems was completed.

The work was initially undertaken by the estate’s developer, Thomas McFeely, but he was ordered off the site by the court on November 4th, on the application of the city council, which was not satisfied with the work being carried out.

The council was ordered by the court to cover the accommodation costs of the evacuated residents. The residents, a mix of home owners and tenants, were initially accommodated in hotels but were subsequently moved to rented housing.

Until this week the council had spent €2,136,943 on Priory Hall. This covered the cost of temporary lettings for all owner-occupiers, storage costs and security costs. It also includes money given to cover the cost difference between rents in Priory Hall and higher rents being paid by tenants evacuated from the complex who were in receipt of rent supplement.

The rental of apartments for the past year has cost the council €620,039. This is less than the council has spent on security for the empty buildings, which has so far cost €697,962.

In addition to renting apartments the council has spent €396,460 on hotel accommodation. Most of this cost was incurred late last year in the weeks after the residents were evacuated. However, one resident continues to stay in an unnamed Dublin hotel. A spokesman for the council said this cost was not significant.

The next largest cost relates to surveying, and engineering and fire safety consultancy work, which now totals €335,616. Salaries have cost the council €10,624. Miscellaneous costs, largely related to the storage of the residents’ possessions, have amounted to €76,242.

The council is appealing to the Supreme Court the order requiring it to cover the accommodation costs.

Residents’ spokesman and Priory Hall homeowner Graham Usher said life continued to be extremely difficult for the residents, who felt left in limbo.

“The council’s Supreme Court case is hanging over the residents’ heads. That will be D-Day for the residents, because the possibility is that then, in addition to their mortgage problem, they’ll have a rent problem,” he said.

Families initially relieved to have secured a moratorium on their mortgages are now seeing their debt mounting.

“A lot of families got what they thought would be short-term moratoriums. That was fine when it was looking like they’d be back in within three months, but a year on that mortgage is just getting bigger and bigger. It’s added about €15,000 to most mortgages,” said Mr Usher.

The condition of the buildings has got progressively worse over the year, he said.

“There were always damp problems but now it’s right up the walls and across the ceilings. This is what happens to homes where there is no power and heat in them for a year. Personally, I think the situation has gone so far that it can’t be fixed and taking them down would be the only solution.”

A resolution process chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan and involving banks and residents is ongoing. With residents facing into a second year in temporary homes it was essential a solution was found, Mr Usher said. “People want to get on with their lives, they can’t continue like this.”