Council Briefs: Homelessness Updates, and Overcrowding in Portobello

Dublin City Council is examining the possibility of converting its maintenance depots to create housing for homeless people, according to Eileen Gleeson of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE).

“We are looking at everything I won’t deny it,” said Gleeson, executive manager of DRHE. “We are looking at any potential properties we have, for family hubs and for emergency accommodation for singles.”

Gleeson was speaking at a meeting on Friday of the council’s housing committee. (In response to follow-up queries, Dublin City Council Press Office said it couldn’t provide any further information.)

At the same meeting, Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne asked about Simon Coveney’s promise to end the practice of placing homeless families in hotels by the end of June.

“Is there a plan in place as to how that might happen, or it is just an aspiration from a minister that hasn’t been followed through on?” he asked.

“We do have a plan, it’s a regional plan,” said Gleeson. She outlined a plan relying on the housing assistance payment (HAP) scheme, the development of “family hubs”, the provision of social housing and more, which has previously been aired and discussed.

Sinn Fein Councillor Daithi Doolan said he is worried about families who go to the council for help after 1 July. “We will still have families presenting to us as homeless on a daily basis if the hotels are out of bounds, where are we going to put these families?” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing said that placing families in hotels will not be impossible after the deadline. “The aim is that by mid-2017, hotels will only be used for emergency accommodation in very limited circumstances,” the spokesperson said.

Overcrowding in Portobello

Councillors also discussed a case, covered in the Irish Times, of a homeowner in Portobello who was reportedly renting out 16 bunk beds in his three-bedroom house for €445 each per month.

“It is my intention to highlight the issue … as this could encourage others to do likewise,” said Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan.

The homeowner also has planning permission for a two-storey structure in the garden, McCartan said.

The man named in the Irish Times article, Eamon McElwee, put in a planning application in March 2016 to demolish a garage in the back garden of his Victoria Street home to make way for ” the construction of a ground floor storage space & first floor home study to provide additional space for the growing McElwee family”.

Independent Councillor Ruari McGinley wondered whether, if the information provided in the application were found to be untrue, it would invalidate the planning permission granted. He also wanted to know if a fire officer had inspected the premises.

McElwee’s planning permission was granted in May 2016. One of the conditions was that “It shall not be used as sleeping accommodation, or for the keeping of animals or birds, or for any commercial purpose, and shall not be let or sold independently of the main dwelling.”

Councillors expect to see health, planning-enforcement and fire-safety reports on the property at their next meeting. Labour Councillor Mary Freehill suggested they seek legal advice as well.

“If we don’t already have the laws to deal with it then can we put together some bye-laws to deal with it?” she asked.

Aungier Street Hostel

A motion to halt work on a new homeless hostel on Aungier Street was defeated at a meeting of one of the council’s local area committees on Monday.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said the new hostel at 21 Aungier Street, formerly the Staircase Guesthouse is a national monument. And “it is turning into ghettoisation” of the area, he said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Chris Andrews said he wouldn’t support the motion, due to the extent of the homeless crisis. “We will in years to come look back and see … that children and families and homeless people were treated so badly, we are just repeating the mistakes of the past,” he said.

But others were supportive of Flynn.

Independent Councillor Sonya Stapleton backed the motion, saying she understood the issue with homelessness, but was representing businesses in the area who are very concerned. “I just don’t think it’s the right area we have got a lot going on already,” she said.

Some councillors argued that plan didn’t constitute a change of use, as the building had already been used by the Department of Justice for hostel-type accommodation for asylum seekers.

In the end, the motion was defeated by seven votes to three.

Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a freelance journalist. You can reach her at laoiseneylon@gmail.com.

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