Temporary housing for Ukrainian refugees may be needed for up to three years

Each council could be mandated to develop a significant housing centre in their area

Temporary accommodation may be needed for up to three years for Ukrainian refugees, with each local authority mandated to develop a significant housing centre in their area.

With pressure growing on accommodation, the Coalition is hoping a wide-ranging shake-up will bring more housing online. However, the scale of the crisis is such that officials told a private session of the Oireachtas housing committee on Tuesday that some form of temporary accommodation may be needed for between two and three years. It is anticipated individual refugees will not spend this long in such settings, and sources hope the facilities will not be needed at scale for the period.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien brought a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining plans to provide longer-term accommodation of refugees from Ukraine. He told Cabinet that he intends to use legal powers available to him to heavily restrict local authorities’ capacity to waive rates, in an effort to combat vacancy. Ministers were told that powers would be used to allow a range of temporary facilities to be built bypassing planning – including medical, residential, education and childcare facilities.

Ministers were told that each local authority will be asked to identify one building in public or private ownership and develop a plan for its refurbishment. Several large buildings have already been identified, many of them Health Service Executive properties. Cabinet was told they include Baggot Street hospital and former institutions St Ita’s in Dublin and St Loman’s in Mullingar, as well as St Brigid’s nursing home in south Dublin and St Peter’s in Castlepollard.

Public call

A public ‘call for buildings’ will be made to identify vacant buildings for repurposing, Ministers were told. Consideration will be given to extending operating hours for construction, and a clearing house will be established to assess which of 70,000 non-active planning permissions can be fast-tracked. An emergency vacant housing delivery unit is also to be established, Ministers heard.

Meanwhile, the Office of Public Works has been tasked with developing proposals for modular housing and liaising with providers, while local authorities will be told to identify suitable land. Mr O’Brien said on Tuesday that 500 modular homes were planned.

Eoin Ó Broin, the Sinn Féin housing spokesman, said the suggestion that temporary or emergency accommodation being used for two to three years was “concerning”. He said he came away from the briefing with “a little bit of nervousness” that low-grade modular accommodation might be destined for the sites, and said there was a lack of detail about the precise scale and scope of the plans.

Some 500 vacant buildings have been identified, with 89 capable of offering accommodation to as many as 5,355 people, a Government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, officials in Poland and Bulgaria last night said Russia is suspending their countries’ natural gas deliveries, starting on Wednesday.

Earlier, Germany announced it would deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine for the first time, in a policy shift as western allies pledged to beef up support for Kyiv at a gathering at the Ramstein US air force base in southern Germany.

Berlin said it had approved deliveries of Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Kyiv, a break with previous policy after Chancellor Olaf Scholz came under criticism from Ukraine and western allies for hesitancy in recent weeks.