Empty housing complex ‘appalling’, Paschal Donohoe says

Minister ‘disappointed’ over rent dispute between over €17 million project

Senior citizens housing complex on Gardiner Street, near Mountjoy Square, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Senior citizens housing complex on Gardiner Street, near Mountjoy Square, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has described as “appalling” an ongoing rent dispute in inner city Dublin which has left a €17m senior citizens housing complex lying empty as Christmas approaches.

Fr Scully House, near the junction of Gardiner Street and Mountjoy Square, has 99 vacant apartments, but Dublin City Council says it has been unable to allocate tenants because the social housing rents sought by the Catholic Housing Aid Society are too high.

“I think it is appalling what is happening there at the moment. This is a facility that has been put in place at a cost to the taxpayer and to Dublin City Council,” Mr Donohoe said.

“I know that homelessness at any time of the year is something that’s an awful experience for people either to be in or to face. And I know that having a safe and secure roof and shelter over your head while it’s always important is particularly important at a time when people want to be spending time with friends and family.”

Mr Donohoe, speaking at a Tourism Ireland event, called on all those involved to “redouble their efforts” to ensure the facilities could be used effectively.

The Minister would not be drawn on who he believed was to blame for the impasse. “I’m disappointed that agreement has not already been reached in relation to this given the amount of money that has been spent in upgrading these facilities.

“ They are in a very, very good location. They’re in a part of our city which has a tradition of and expertise in being able to look after people well, particularly the elderly.

“What’s more important for me at this stage, rather than the issue of blame for now, is getting those facilities and services open and I believe it would be appalling if that wasn’t to be resolved very, very soon.”

The original Fr Scully House, 45 senior citizens’ bedsits, was built in the late 1960s on land granted to the society by the then Dublin Corporation. The complex was finally vacated in 2006 and subsequently demolished. Construction of the new complex of 90 one-bed apartments and nine two-beds has recently been completed.

The society received 100 per cent funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS). Under its terms, the society must agree an “economic rent” with the council and the council can nominate tenants on its social housing waiting list to 75 per cent of the units, while 25 per cent are chosen by the society.

The council’s housing department has been in negotiations with the society since July, but has been unable to agree an economic rent for the apartments.

Last month, the council said it could not say how much the society wanted to charge as talks were ongoing but, while €66-€68 was the average weekly CAS rent, the society had proposed a “significantly higher” sum.

Lord Mayor Christy Burke said the society was proposing to charge €90 for first-floor units, with rents rising for upper storeys.