Cost of refurbishing homeless family hubs expected to rise

Dublin City Council spent more than €16.8m renovating 10 properties for homeless

The local authority spent €1.3 million refurbishing two properties on Lawrence’s Road, Clontarf, to house 11 families.

The local authority spent €1.3 million refurbishing two properties on Lawrence’s Road, Clontarf, to house 11 families.

 

The amount spent refurbishing 10 homeless family hubs is expected to increase, as the final accounts have not been signed off in four of the properties.

Dublin City Council (DCC) spent more than €16.8 million refurbishing 10 properties as family homeless hubs, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act.

However, the final figure is anticipated to rise when the accounts are finalised in four of the refurbishments. While the majority of costs to date for work in the four hubs are included in the €16.8 million figure, the final accounts have not been closed. The figure also does not include the cost of Value Added Tax (VAT).

A breakdown was provided on the amount spent on six of the 10 hubs, where the accounts had been finalised.

The most expensive renovation project was €2.7 million spent on a former Irish Probation Service building on Clonard Road, Crumlin. The building is owned by the Office of Public Works, and provides en suite rooms for 25 families.

Family hubs have been used as longer term accommodation for homeless families, as an alternative to hotel or B&B emergency accommodation.

Many of the properties were previously used as emergency accommodation, such as Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street. DCC spent €2.2 million renovating the former hotel, renamed Anna Livia, which provides 38 family rooms.

These hubs were supposed to be temporary, with homeless families moving on to housing, but they have become permanent

In June 2017, when construction work was ongoing to convert the property into a family hub, one floor was being used as emergency accommodation. The practice was stopped after a padlock was found on a fire door in the property, and a subsequent inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade raised fire safety concerns.

The local authority spent €1.3 million refurbishing two properties on Lawrence’s Road, Clontarf to house 11 families. A High Court challenge, which local residents took against the re-development of the former guesthouse as a homeless hub, was struck out last October. DCC bought the Clontarf property, but is renting the other nine family hub buildings.

Existing facilities

The Townhouse B&B on Gardiner Street is a hub for 98 families, that was previously used as emergency accommodation. The council spent €106,064 converting the property; renovation costs were low as “the premises had existing dining room and external play space”, the local authority said.

Once you start knocking down walls, you start to discover a whole range of problems

The Viking Lodge, a former hotel and pub on Merchants Quay, cost €1.6 million to convert into a hub for 30 families. Another former hotel, The Bram Stoker in Clontarf, cost over €491,574 to convert into a hub.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which oversees the hub projects, said “unfortunately, as is the case with most existing buildings, the full extent of the [necessary] works is unknown prior to works commencing”.

One source in the local authority said the cost of converting properties such as former hotels and B&Bs into family-suitable accommodation had been larger than initially expected. “Once you start knocking down walls, you start to discover a whole range of problems,” the source said.

Homeless charities such as Focus Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust and Respond run support services for families in several hubs.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien TD criticised the high spending for work carried out on properties the State did not own. “These hubs were supposed to be temporary, with homeless families moving on to housing, but they have become permanent. A lot of families have been in the same hubs since the day they were opened,” he said.

The spending on the temporary hub accommodation “would be acceptable while we were ramping up provision of social and affordable housing, but we’re not”, he added.