Coun­cil urged to re­open 16 bed­sits in Stil­lor­gan

The Irish Times - - News Features - KITTY HOL­LAND So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Six­teen bed­sits in the heart of Stil­lor­gan on Dublin’s south­side have lain empty since bed­sits were banned in Ire­land four years ago.

The con­tin­ued dere­lic­tion and va­cancy of al­most 16 units of so­cial hous­ing, in the heart of Stil­lor­gan, Co Dublin, is a “dis­grace,” “scan­dalous” and “very sad”, ac­cord­ing to res­i­dents and pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The build has been at the cen­tre of a num­ber of re­de­vel­op­ment plans. Built by the then Dublin Cor­po­ra­tion in 1954, most of the units on St Lau­rence’s Park are boarded-up and in­creas­ingly di­lap­i­dated. They are owned by Dún Laoghaire-Rath­down County Coun­cil.

Maria José Mon­tiro (82) is one of the two re­main­ing ten­ants and has lived here for 17 years.

The widow de­scribes as “very sad” that most of her neigh­bours have been moved out by the coun­cil, and that the homes are empty “when so many peo­ple need a house”.

The four two-storey blocks, each with two “maisonettes” per floor, were formerly homes to el­derly, sin­gle and two-per­son house­holds. Found down a quiet road, they are di­rectly op­po­site Stil­lor­gan li­brary and about a five-minute walk from Stil­lor­gan shop­ping cen­tre and bus routes into the city cen­tre and out to Bray.

Bolted closed

Rust­ing steel doors are bolted closed over the for­mer front doors and the win­dows are var­i­ously boarded- and bricked-up. While most of the small front gar­dens are over­grown, all the hedges have clearly been re­cently trimmed.

In front of Ms Mon­tiro’s home are neatly tended roses, fuschia and pink daisies. “I like the gar­den. It is very lonely here with most of the peo­ple gone, but I like the gar­den,” she says.

Peo­ple Be­fore Profit TD Richard Boyd Bar­rett, whose con­stituency di­rectly bor­ders St Lau­rence’s Park, de­scribes as “dis­grace­ful” that the coun­cil has been “sit­ting on their hands while th­ese homes lie empty while we are in the teeth of an un­prece­dented hous­ing cri­sis”.

He said the dwellings could have been re­fur­bished as eight apart­ments, de­mol­ished and a larger num­ber of homes built on the land, or sim­ply re­fur­bished and brought back into use as small, sin­gle-per­son dwellings.

In­de­pen­dent Se­na­tor Vic­tor Boy­han says the fact that the homes have re­mained empty “for all th­ese years is ab­so­lutely out­ra­geous and scan­dalous”.

“There is vir­tu­ally no so­cial hous­ing in Stil­lor­gan and those homes are so ide­ally lo­cated, es­pe­cially for older peo­ple. They are so close to the won­der­ful shop­ping cen­tre, to doc­tors, den­tists, bus routes – ev­ery­thing you could need is on the doorstep.

“They should just be re­vamped and brought back into use im­me­di­ately. We have them. They are there. What is the coun­cil do­ing let­ting them lie empty while peo­ple are home­less?

“There are al­most ex­act replica maisonettes on Pot­tery Road in Dún Laoghaire. I was in one last week and they work very well, the peo­ple liv­ing there wouldn’t give them up for love nor money.”

The blocks have been at the cen­tre of sev­eral re­de­vel­op­ment plans, some in­volv­ing pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ships for larger de­vel­op­ments. Most re­cently, last year, coun­cil plan­ners came un­der fire for a pro­posal to knock all four blocks to make way for a swim­ming pool.

Plan with­drawn

Nearby Gle­nal­byn swim­ming pool, which closed in 2013 due to health and safety rea­sons, was to be re­lo­cated on the site of the maisonettes, but the plan was with­drawn fol­low­ing nu­mer­ous ob­jec­tions. The closed pool re­mains at the cen­tre of a long- run­ning cam­paign to have it re­opened.

Asked what she would like to hap­pen to the maisonettes, Ms Mon­tiro is clear. “Not re­de­vel­op­ment. I would like to see them re-opened. It is very sad they are closed. I know so many peo­ple need a house.”

A spokes­woman for the coun­cil said: “Dún Laoghaire-Rath­down pro­poses to de­velop at least 75 new hous­ing units and a li­brary at this site, in­creas­ing the units avail­able for so­cial hous­ing. The units pre­vi­ously con­sisted of 16 one-bed­room maisonettes and were des­ig­nated as se­nior cit­i­zen units.

“This de­vel­op­ment, when com­pleted, will con­sist of a mix of one-bed and two-bed units. We con­sider this the best use of the site as it will ac­com­mo­date sub­stan­tially more res­i­dents than could be ac­com­mo­dated in the cur­rent 16 units. An ap­pli­ca­tion for fund­ing has been sub­mit­ted to the Depart­ment of Hous­ing.”

Mr Boy­han said he didn’t “buy yet an­other plan” from the coun­cil.

“They have been talk­ing about plans for years and years and do­ing noth­ing. It’s a scan­dal. Open them up and get peo­ple liv­ing there.”

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