People living in ‘manky’ flats in listed buildings
Housing meeting told of appalling conditions for tenants in ‘beautiful architectural buildings’
The Mercer Street flats in Dublin, designed by Herbert Simms: “It is a lovely building . . . but the place is in bits,” said Independent councillor Sonya Stapleton. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Dublin flat tenants are living in “appalling, filthy dirty, manky conditions” in “beautiful architectural buildings” that happen to be protected structures, a Dublin City Council housing meeting has heard.
The council plans to redevelop more than 6,000 of its oldest flats in what would be the largest social housing regeneration programme in the State. Some complexes could face demolition including blocks on the Record of Protected Structures (RPS)
Just seven complexes totalling 814 flats are listed on the city’s RPS. Almost all were designed by renowned Dublin housing architect Herbert Simms.
Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe told the meeting he was worried “heritage has been put on the back burner” in a rush to demolish flats.
If you want to save them, take them down brick by brick and put them somewhere else – or in a museum
“I’m worried there isn’t a voice for heritage around the table, and the work of Herbert Simms is extraordinary,” he said. “Knocking down listed buildings is not the answer to the housing crisis.”
However, Cllr Mannix Flynn (Independent) said “grandiose architecture” could not compensate tenants for “appalling” living conditions.
“People right across this city are living in appalling, filthy dirty, manky conditions in beautiful architectural buildings.”
The Mercer Street flats, designed by Simms, were in a particularly poor state, he said.“If you want to save them, take them down brick by brick and put them somewhere else – or in a museum.”
Cllr Sonya Stapleton (Independent) said she lived opposite the Mercer Street flats. “It is a lovely building . . . but the place is in bits, the kitchens are literally falling off people’s walls with the dampness.”
Cllr Críona Ní Dhálaigh (Sinn Féin) said her concern was for the living standards of tenants.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re living in a building that is listed, it might look lovely, but inside you can’t put your washing machine on because sewage comes up into it, you can’t flush your toilet, sewage comes up your sink, you can’t have bath or a shower.”
The council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said he had not advocated widespread demolition of listed buildings, but there were “one or two” of the seven blocks where demolition would be the better option in his view.
“In relation to delisting, when I spoke before about demolition, it would still be my personal view that that is the best option for the residents in the long term.”
Refurbishment was “very, very expensive and in some cases involves a reduction in density,” he said.
However, he said the removal of a building from the RPS was solely within the power of councillors, not the council management.
Simms oversaw the construction of 17,000 flats and houses in Dublin in his tenure as housing architect from 1932 until his death in 1948.