Councillors scrap emergency homeless accommodation plans

Labour councillors vote against Minister for Environment’s plans for O’Devaney Gardens

Plans to refurbish the dilapidated O’Devaney Gardens flat complex to provide temporary accommodation for up to 400 homeless families living in hotels, have been scrapped by Dublin city councillors. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Plans to refurbish the dilapidated O’Devaney Gardens flat complex to provide temporary accommodation for up to 400 homeless families living in hotels, have been scrapped by Dublin city councillors. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Plans to refurbish the dilapidated O’Devaney Gardens flat complex to provide temporary accommodation for up to 400 homeless families living in hotels, have been scrapped by Dublin city councillors.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly wanted the council to refurbish 64 empty flats in the 1950s complex at a cost of €4.72 million.The flats would have been used over the next five years to house 300 to 400 homeless families and then demolished to allow for a more comprehensive regeneration planned for the estate almost 15 years ago.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke said he had no doubt Mr Kelly was sincere in his intentions but spending almost €5 million on homes which were going to be demolished was a “pure waste of tax payers’ money”.

Mr Burke proposed a motion at the council meeting directing council chief executive Owen Keegan not to proceed with the refurbishment plan. Forty-three councillors voted in favour of Mr Burke’s motion including most Labour councillors. A number of Fine Gael councillors and Independents voted against the motion. Three Labour councillors, Dermot Lacey, Andrew Montague and Mary Freehill abstained.

Mr Keegan said the council was not in a position to proceed with the regeneration of the estate. “Conditions are becoming more favourable... but with the best will in the world it would take four or five years before we would be in that position.” The temporary refurbishment would not compromise the long -term regeneration he said.

The council’s head of housing Dick Brady said there were welfare issues in continuing to keep homeless families in hotels and the refurbishment of O’Devaney Gardens would provide more appropriate accommodation.

Sinn Féin’s Janice Boylan, a former resident of O’Devaney Gardens said there were serious social problems in the estate and the flats were not suitable for vulnerable homeless people. “The 14 remaining families have been left in appalling conditions there.”

However Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said not going ahead with the refurbishment was “furthering homelessness”.

Fine Gael councillor Kieran Binchy opposed the motion. “One of the solutions to homelessness is being blocked for reasons that don’t make sense.”

Labour’s Andrew Montague said leaving people in hotels was a terrible option.

Following the death near Leinster House last December of homeless man Jonathan Corrie, Mr Kelly published an action plan on homelessness. The refurbishment of empty flats in Dublin City Council estates designated for demolition and regeneration was one of the central components of the plan.

O’Devaney Gardens, close to Phoenix Park in Dublin 7, was to have been redeveloped under a public­private partnership between the council and developer Bernard McNamara but the deal collapsed in 2008.

The council drew up plans to redevelop O’Devaney Gardens using public money and secured planning permission for the project in 2011 but two years ago conceded it could not raise the necessary funds.