By Sean Ryan - 16 September, 2017
One of the country’s leading homeless campaigners has said that he is in favour of temporarily bringing back bedsits – but only if they are of ‘acceptable quality’. Fr Peter McVerry made his comments when interviewed this week on Newstalk Radio.
The single room accommodation was outlawed in 2013 because so many of the single occupancy units were considered substandard. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy indicated earlier this year that the reintroduction of bedsits was under consideration, as part of the Government’s efforts to find new solutions to the housing crisis.
Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Jesuit priest Fr Peter McVerry SJ from the Fr Peter McVerry Trust gave the proposals a guarded welcome. He said ‘’Given the crisis that we are in, I would bring them back into use for a period of three years, and then they would be reviewed. This would be subject to two conditions, firstly that they would be of an acceptable standard of quality, and secondly that they would be offered only to people who are homeless or on the social housing list’’.
The move has also been supported by the Director of the Residential Landlords Association of Ireland (RLAI), Fintan McNamara who said that a loosening of the rules relating to bedsit accommodation could result in up to 2,000 extra units becoming available.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mr McNamara welcomed the reports and said that renting a room with a shared bathroom could be substantially cheaper. He said there were 9,000 such units when the law came into effect, and “we estimate now, that there are about 2,000 at most left.”But that is significant for the people who are actually living there, or for the people who have been turfed out who might be able to come back in again”. He said a converted studio apartment could rent for €1,000 a month, but a bedsit may cost €600-€650 to rent.
However, some housing groups have criticised the reported proposals. The chairperson of the national housing charity, Threshold, Dr Aideen Hayden, said bedsit style accommodation is too unsafe to be considered as a measure to ease the housing crisis. Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One, Dr Hayden said that bedsits are failing to meet appropriate safety standards because the quality is too poor and it often poses a serious fire risk. She said the homeless crisis “will not be solved by looking back”. “It’s very hard to see how without dumbing down the regulations, you can bring back the bedsit,” said Dr Hayden. She added “We’ve seen a situation where two Irish students died in Leuven, we’ve seen Grenfell Tower, and the chief fire officer for Dublin – when there was a fire in Mountjoy Square in a typical bedsit-style accommodation situation – said that he was very concerned that one of these situations in Ireland would lead to such a disaster. “These properties are not available because they just don’t happen to be ensuite accommodation; they’re failing because they’re poor quality, they’re failing because they’re firetraps, and I don’t think there’s anything to be gained in going backwards.”
A decision on the use of bedsits is expected to be made by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in the next few weeks.