IT’S BEEN a bonanza week for Athy on the housing front, with the official opening of the ‘Family Hub’ at the Dominicans site, the announced development of 59 social houses at Gallows Hill and Flinter’s Field and plans by Kildare County Council to bring nine vacant houses at Corran Árd back into use.
Housing minister Eoghan Murphy visited Athy last Friday morning for the official opening of the new Family Hub, to be run by Peter McVerry Trust. Minister Murphy stressed that the seven family unit hub, which has been developed in the former priory on the Dominican site, was only a temporary solution.
Speaking at the event, the minister said: “Ideally, no families should be living in hubs and we are working towards that. However, hubs are not hotels. They are far superior but they are not a permanent solution. Unlike hotels, the hubs will have facilities such as individual kitchen and laundry spaces, a homework club and a summer club. In addition to redeveloping 30 social houses on this site, I can also confirm that when the family hub is no longer required as a family hub, it will be turned into permanent accommodation. The previous government outsourced responsibility to build social housing but we are taking it back and we will build more homes. However, we have to be careful how we do it and we have to do it in a way that we aren’t building problems into the future.”
Peter McVerry Trust chief executive Pat Doyle also stressed that the hub is a temporary solution for families. He said: “The hub can accommodate seven families accommodating 14 adults and 14 children. Three of these units are filled at the moment and if these families are still here in a year we will have failed them. It is a three- to six-month stay at most and our job is to move them on to permanent accommodation after that time. The hubs are laid out to such a high standard that the problem we will have is getting them to leave and move on to permanent accommodation.”
Mr Doyle also paid tribute to the Kildare County Council chief executive Peter Carey and his staff, who, he said, had worked hard to make the hub a reality.
Mayor of Kildare cllr Martin Miley said: “When we heard the news on 22 November 2015 that the Dominicans were leaving Athy, it was an uncertain time for us. However, today is a happier time and I wish to pay tribute to former deputy Jack Wall who is here with us today and deserves a lot of credit for his efforts to deliver funding for this project. The great fear that someone that is homeless faces is where they will be accommodated and I think those who will be coming here will be happy in the knowledge that the work which was done is to a very high standard.”
Following the opening at the Dominicans, minister Murphy visited the unfinished estate at Gallowshill where Respond housing association is awaiting approval to construct a further 24 new family homes to complete the estate.
Deputy Martin Heydon noted that this is in addition to planning approval for Respond to build 35 social homes Flinter’s Field shows the progression plan for Athy families, with 59 additional social houses starting construction in the town this year.
He said: “This week also saw confirmation from minister Murphy of funding for the construction of a further 30 new housing units at the Dominicans site in an innovative positive development planned for over 55s. I’m also delighted that progress is being made on the delivery on social housing for South Kildare families in Flinter’s Field and Gallowshill. I will continue to work with Respond, Kildare County Council and the department to ensure these badly-needed units are delivered as soon as possible”
Declan Dunne, CEO of Respond Housing, said: “We are delighted to progress these projects which will see 59 families in permanent homes of their own in the second half of 2019. Respond is significantly ramping up our pipeline of social housing projects in order to help deliver the scale of housing that Ireland so dearly needs.”
Finally, cllr Mark Wall confirmed to the Kildare Nationalist that a project he has been working on for the past year will shortly be realised.
The councillor says that a deal has been done which will see nine houses that are currently boarded up at Corran Árd taken into the ownership of the council shortly. He added: “This is great news and it shows what can be done when everyone is working together to achieve the same result.”
Kildare County Council director of housing Tadhg McDonnell confirmed this to be the case to the Kildare Nationalist.
“I can confirm that an offer has been made to the receiver for nine homes in Corran Árd and we are hopeful of a positive response in the near future,” he said.