Modular housing not a cure-all for homelessness
2015-11-15 11:15:26 -

By Margot Garnier


In late September, Community Minister Alan Kelly announced that a short-term response to tackle homelessness crisis in Dublin has been found: modular houses. 


Twenty-two prefabricated houses would be built before Christmas, and a total of 128 units would be available by February 2016, he said. In total, 500 modular houses are to be built, half in Dublin city, from a budget of €40m.


Five individuals are to be housed in each three-bedroom, two-storey unit located between Poppintree in Ballymun, Mourne Road in Drimnagh, St Helena’s Drive in Finglas, Cherry Orchard in Ballyfermot and Belcamp Avenue in Coolock.


The move has been largely welcomed by groups working with homeless people, though some continue to highlight the necessity of a longer-term solution while the numbers of homeless continue to grow.


As of the end of August, 600 families and 1,275 children were living in emergency accommodation and need homes right now.


And migrants are disproportionately represented in this number. According to Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, of the 105 people found sleeping rough in Dublin during the latest count, one in five were not native Irish.


But that’s a figure that surprised Ewa Sadowska of Barka, a homeless organisation mainly working with Polish migrants. “The results of so called ‘head counts’ made by local councils are always smaller than the real number of rough sleepers,” she says. “Based on our experience, there are at least 300 rough sleepers in Dublin, if not more.”


Like most homeless support organisations, Barka hopes that modular houses will not be an “ultimate response” to homelessness.


“Modular houses should only be one aspect of the integrated response package to address homelessness,” says Sadowska. “It is important to create conditions where people take the responsibility for their lives. Like for example, getting involved in building houses for themselves and then being prepared to sustain them.”


That’s a vision shared by Crosscare chief executive Conor Hickey, who says: “We must take great care to ensure that this is only an emergency response while we are waiting for proper social housing to come on stream.


“It is a frightening thought that families may be left for years in this type of provision. There needs to be a clear exit strategy from modular housing and the use of hotels for families.”


Meanwhile, Minister Kelly has announced his long-awaited housing plan that was supposed to include measures akin to rent controls. 


But after tough negotiations between Kelly and Finance Minister Michael Noonan, landlords will now instead be blocked from increasing rents more frequently than once every two years, as well as having to justify their rent increase.

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