Unreal estate

Vacancy Watch: St Catherine's Gate along the Grand Canal

The empty St Catherine’s Gate apartment complex is being stripped and gutted, and there’s a Savills “for sale” sign out front.

Until early this year, Dublin City Council leased apartments in this complex on Parnell Road in Crumlin from their owner, and used them as emergency accommodation to house homeless families.

But then it was sold, the tenants were moved out, and the renovation was begun – and now there’s another sale on the horizon.

Some are concerned about the loss of emergency accommodation, and question why the residents were not simply allowed to continue living there during the sales and renovation.

“People were dispersed  […] but they should have been left there,” says Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne.

Emptied Out and Sold

Catherine Reddington and her family lived in an apartment at St Catherine’s Gate back in 2015. Back then, it housed 29 homeless families.

Reddington and her partner Raymond Farrell, and their three children now live elsewhere, but they say it’s a shame St Catherine’s Gate was emptied out.

The way Reddington and Farrell see it, the work on the apartments should have been done when people were still living there.

In February 2018, the property was sold for €4,550,000, and the last family lived there until March. And now it’s being sold again.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said they believe it is a receiver that is selling the building now, and that the council “understand that an Approved Housing Body (AHB) was bidding for it”.

The spokesperson did not name either organisation. A representative for Savill’s estate agents said they had been asked not to discuss the property until the sale was made official at the end of this month.

If an AHB acquired the property, the council would get to choose who gets the homes, said a council spokesperson.

Why didn’t the council not try to buy the property itself? “We understood that a significant amount of costly refurbishment would be required before it could be ready for letting, and […] we were aware that one or more AHB’s were planning to bid for it,” said the spokesperson.

The council would not normally compete with AHB’s for acquisitions like this, they said.

Fire Safety

Dunne says he’s concerned that the building will be sold to the highest bidder, and no longer used for emergency accommodation or social housing.

“It was built towards the end of the housing boom. It was one of the better emergency accommodations,” says Dunne. When house prices collapsed, it went into receivership, he says.

“Late last year, they started to de-tenant,” Dunne says. (There was just one family left in the complex in March 2018, compared to a “higher number involved in March 2017”, according to the council spokesperson.)

When the final householder moved out, the council’s arrangement with the owners – a short-term lease for emergency accommodation – ended.

Dunne says he’s surprised the complex sold in February for what he considers to be relatively little, and was disappointed that it went on the market at all. But there were issues with fire safety and other building regulations, he says.

Farrell says that when he lived there with Reddington, there was only one way in and out of the building, and the windows were nailed shut “for the children’s safety”. “Anybody I know who was in homeless accommodation I told them to steer clear,” says Farrell.

“Why didn’t the refurbishments come when people were living there? It was like they were letting people live in those conditions. Now it’s being sold, they’re renovating,” says Farrell.

Zuzia Whelan portrait
Zuzia Whelan

Zuzia Whelan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at zwhelan@dublininquirer.com.

 

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