The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, has announced that the 500 units of modular housing will be provided for homeless families in Dublin as emergency housing.
Twenty-two of the units will be available for Christmas; one of the most difficult times for homelessness in the city. 128 units will then be available shortly after. The new national procurement framework will see a further 350 modular housing units delivered in 2016.
The cost of the units ranges between €75,000 – €100,000, and will come at a total cost of €40 million to Dublin City Council. They each have an expected lifespan of 60 to 70 years.
Mr Kelly said that modular units mean that the housing can be built quicker, which is of utmost importance. He also defended the quality of the units: “If you are thinking years ago of your old prefabricated units that are in schools, there’s nothing like this. I would challenge many people even if they looked at them to differentiate between a normal house and one of these.”
The tender notice for the first 22 units describes them as “3 bed- 5 person 2 story, rapid delivery housing units for completion by mid-December. However, Mr Kelly did not comment on the location of the first units, saying that this was a matter for Dublin City Council.
The council has welcomed the project as a solution to help deal with the city’s homeless crisis. In a statement, the council said it “awaits details and further communication from the Department of Environment”. Councillors will be briefed on the details of the pilot project next Tuesday.
The announcement comes in the wake of shocking figures that show homelessness amongst children has increased by over 100% in the capital in a year. From the week of September 21st to 27th there were 1,343 children in 537 families living in emergency accommodation in Dublin. A survey from the same time last year showed there were 668 homeless children in 309 families.
The impact that of living in emergency accommodation for prolonged periods has been an issue of great concern for Focus Ireland, the Ombudsman for Children, Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and the United Nations. A study of its wider effects has yet to be undertaken.
The announcement of modular housing was originally met with political concerns. The housing is prefabricated and can be assembled in a factory within days, which struck many as a flimsy solution to a long term problem. However, as the number of families using homeless services continues to grow, increasing the need for speedy solutions, the proposal has become widely accepted.
Ashley Balbirnie of Focus Ireland welcomed the announcement as a much needed improvement in emergency accommodation. However, she stressed the need to take action to prevent homlessness and provide support for people to move into a home of their own. “At the present there is no policy response from the government to stop [family homelessness] from doubling in the next 12 months.”
Ms Balbirnie offered a number of steps that could be taken to prevent the continuation of such a crisis. “We need Rent Supplement raised to the actual level of rent that people have to pay and we need action to stop banks from evicting tenants when the landlord gets into arrears with his/her mortgage. Without these measures the number of homeless families is likely to increase by almost 150 by Christmas, wiping out the progress which is being announced today.”