Purpose-built student apartment blocks in Dublin city could be turned into homeless accommodation under proposals from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).
The DRHE is seeking to take advantage of the glut of new student blocks in the city which have failed to attract sufficient numbers of students. This has been attributed to the shift to online lectures, fewer overseas students arriving during the pandemic and high rents.
Dublin City Council last year granted permission to convert almost 1,600 student beds across the city into tourist or short-term rentals for the last academic year. It recently approved the extension of permission for a block of 571 student spaces close to TU Dublin's Grangegorman campus for the coming academic year.
Brendan Kenny, the council's head of housing, said the vacant student accommodation presented an opportunity for the DRHE, which comes under the council's remit, to source modern accommodation as an alternative to hostels.
He said the accommodation would be most suited to “homeless single people” rather than families. “It’s ideal because of the communal living aspect.”
The purpose-built blocks in many ways presented a better option than the conversion of older buildings for homeless use, Mr Kenny added.
“We get a lot of criticism for taking on older building for homeless accommodation. Some of that is in relation to the condition of older buildings, the costs of conversion etc, but mainly it’s because communities don’t want homeless accommodation beside them.”
There was, he conceded, a concentration of homeless accommodation in certain areas such as Dublin 1, 7 and 8, and those were also areas with high concentrations of student accommodation.
However, he said the DRHE would mostly be looking at student blocks in areas where there was a dearth of homeless facilities. It would also be focusing on smaller housing complexes.
“We’re interested in place with around 50-60 units, we’d be reluctant to take on the bigger ones of 200-300.”
As with the use of student blocks for tourists, their conversions into homeless accommodation was likely to require planning permission, but this had yet to be tested, Mr Kenny said.
“We know we will receive opposition there is always massive opposition to anything to do with homeless facilities. People really don’t want homeless accommodation around them or near them.”