By Laura Lynott @Ly211 Photos by Ioan Hiliuta @bau4uman
AN entire street of social housing in one of the most expensive areas of Ireland is earmarked for demolition under a plan which could see a swimming pool built there.
St Laurence’s Park, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, was once home to 16 – It now houses just two female residents.
Stillorgan is an area of Dublin that has rents reaching above €2,000 for three bed family homes. And there are still pockets of poverty here.
St Laurence’s is one of the few social housing streets in Stillorgan – but now the windows across the block are either bricked or boarded up to prevent anyone new taking up residency.
Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, a former Dun Laoghaire councillor, labelled the situation “disgraceful,” and called on the matter to be raised in the Dail – and a motion to save the street.
Dun Laoghaire People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett echoed the move to save the area – and provide accommodation for the homeless.
There is nothing wrong with the 16 homes. There is a similar street, built by the same developers in the 1950’s, just a few miles away in Dun Laoghaire. The residents there are happy with their homes. They say they wouldn’t dream of leaving them.
While most of the residents from St Laurence’s have been relocated by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council – and the majority of the homes boarded up for more than a year.
Mr Boyd Barrett called the plan to demolish a street of social housing in leafy Stillorgan “outrageous.”
Elderly residents, who opposed being moved, were too afraid to speak for fear they would not be housed.
One elderly woman, since relocated from the street, said: “Why couldn’t someone have helped us a year ago? I didn’t want to go. I didn’t have any choice.”
Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council directed that most of the 16 maisonettes, be boarded up until plans were decided.
While shuttered off, the homeless figures rose to record levels. There are more than 839 families homeless in the capital, including almost 2,000 children.
Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council has a housing list of around 5,500 people waiting to be housed.
On average there is a two month wait to even get a new applicant’s name on the housing list – and there is an 11 year waiting list for social housing.
St Laurence’s Park is opposite the N11 and adjacent to Stillorgan Shopping Centre on a belt of prime land for any developer, given its close access to the city, Dun Laoghaire beach and Wicklow.
Senator Boyhan said: “This street falls in to the Dail constituency of Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown Minister Shane Ross.
“He has spent a great deal of time trying to get elected. Now he is, what is he doing about this issue on his doorstep?
“Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council built around six to 10 social housing units last year.
“This local authority has an appalling record of building social housing.
“What are the elected representatives doing for the people when a housing crisis is getting worse? I would argue there just isn’t the will from the Government to make things better.”
The main plan being put forward by the Council is for Glenalbyn Swimming Pool – a local authority pool closed since 2013 amid health and safety concerns – to be constructed where the residential street lies.
There had been a plan to build some social housing on the land – with the planned acquisition of a Leisureplex bowling alley opposite – but that property has since been bought by a private buyer, making the availability of land restricted.
However, the Council still claims it may be possible to build some social housing units on the land – though these units would be expected to be fewer and take years to construct.
While Senator Boyhan and Mr Boyd Barrett are convinced there is not enough space to provide a pool and social housing – and are angered at how many years it will take to complete any such building work.
Mr Boyd Barrett added: “It’s a mystery why the Council is intent on this plan while we are in the middle of a homeless crisis.
“One could only suspect the Council are cow towing to some interests to position the pool here.”
A Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council spokesman said: “The site of St Laurence’s Park is identified for major redevelopment.
“It was intended that it be redeveloped in conjunction with the adjoining Leisureplex site, together with the library site and a significant increase in the number of residential units, including social housing units, was proposed. However, the proposed development plans did not progress at that time.”
The spokesman said the Council had agreed in October 2015 that it would either – refurbish the existing facility at Glenalbyn Pool or develop a new pool on an alternative council-owned site in Stillorgan.
“The redevelopment options being considered include the options for St Laurence’s Park/library land, which again could provide for a significant increase in the number of units.”
A spokesman for the new Minister of Housing, Simon Coveney, said: “The provision of social housing is a delegated function of the local authority. I note from the council’s response that “any future redevelopment …will result in the provision of additional housing units. This ultimately is a matter for elected representatives.”
Minister Shane Ross said: “I am continuing to actively campaign for the pool to be restored as soon as possible in its original location.”