Low prices help lift shadow of Priory Hall’s past

Apartment sales have been swift but do not come close to covering cost of repairing complex

Priory Hall (now ‘New Priory’) in Donaghmede: Dublin City Council stripped the notorious apartment complex, leaving only the frame and roof structure intact. Photograph: Alan Betson

Priory Hall (now ‘New Priory’) in Donaghmede: Dublin City Council stripped the notorious apartment complex, leaving only the frame and roof structure intact. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

On October 20th last, almost five years to the day since more than 250 people were evacuated from the Priory Hall apartment scheme near Donaghmede in north Dublin because of fire safety risks, apartments in “New Priory” were put up for sale.

The speed at which the first 43 apartments offered for sale by Dublin City Council were snapped up would have astonished even the most successful boom-era estate agent. Booking deposits were taken for the first apartments within hours, and days later they were all gone.

Any hint of stigma which might have clung to what became Ireland’s most notorious apartment complex, particularly given its similar new name, does not seem to have put buyers off.

The low prices probably helped. A one-bed apartment sold for €145,000 and another for €150,000. The majority of two-bedroom apartments cost from €165,000-€178,000, with two-storey duplex homes starting at €195,000 and only four breaching the €200,000 mark.

However, buyers were perhaps also encouraged by the thought that these are probably the safest, best-built apartments in Ireland.

Mediation process

Supreme CourtJustice Joseph Finnegan

The council stripped the building, leaving only the frame and roof structure intact.The external walls have been rebuilt with new brick, insulation and fire-proofing. The roof has a new covering, insulation and ventilation. All mechanical and electrical installations have been replaced and new fire alarms and smoke ventilation systems installed.

Inside each apartment, the doors, floors and skirting boards have been replaced. Soundproofing has been installed, and walls and ceilings will be replastered and painted. New kitchens and bathrooms have been fitted.

Pyrite, the mineral which can cause cracks and subsidence in buildings, was found beneath footpaths, roads, basement car parks, stair foundations and four apartments in the complex. It has been removed.

Under the 2013 deal, banks agreed to write off debts of 62 owner-occupiers at the complex, while 25 buy-to-let owners were given a moratorium on mortgage payments.

Social housing

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation

The council had owned 35 apartments in the complex, and these will remain as social housing, while the buy-to-let investors will be handed back the remaining 25 apartments once work on them is completed.

In 2011 the council had estimated the cost of fixing Priory Hall at €7.3 million, which coincidentally is what it has just secured in sales. However, it is far below the €27 million it now expects the work to cost.

It had hoped to recoup a significant portion of the cost through the sale of 84 more apartments, but this number is likely to be reduced following a decision by councillors last September to increase the level of social housing in the development from 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

Despite a submission by the council to the Department of Housing, the new homeowners, the majority of whom are originally from eastern Europe, will not be eligible for the new help-to-buy scheme.

Although all the apartments are priced well under the €420,000 threshold for the new scheme and most of the new owners are first-time-buyers, the complex, despite being rebuilt almost from scratch, is considered to comprise secondhand homes rather than new-build.