Tenants who fought mass eviction want to inspire hope in others at risk of homelessness

Update: The residents who fought mass eviction and won say they hope their story gives hope to others at risk of homelessness.

The core group of residents of the Leeside apartments in Cork city, who spearheaded a two-year campaign against their eviction, also said they felt abandoned by the government at the height of their campaign.

They were speaking this morning as they celebrated the €20m multi-million social housing property deal which secures their tenancy and provides a further 59 social housing units for the city.

The deal was led by Cork City Council in collaboration with Clúid Housing Association, and follows months of confidential negotiations with Lugus Capital, the vulture fund which bought the four-block complex in late 2017.

Lugus, which was effectively acting as local agent on behalf of the international vulture fund Bain Capital, had served eviction notices on several tenants before it started work on a complete €3m fire safety and structural upgrade of the entire building.

Several tenants moved out but a core group of just over 20 residents remained and resisted.

Following the negotiations, Clúid now owns the completely renovated 78-unit apartment block in on the city’s Bachelor’s Quay.

Resident Aimee O’Riordan said confirmation of the deal has lifted a weight off her shoulders.

“It’s just such a relief. It’s a happy day. To be able to tell my son this is your home, it’s just amazing,” she said.

“We got no help from the government. We were on our own, essentially.

“Our letter to the housing minister was met with silence. We had to explore alternative routes.

But we did it. We did it for all the residents, and for the people who are in the midst of homelessness now. That could have been us.

“I hope it gives the incentive to the government and the city to tackle the homeless crisis.”

Dorota Okon, who needs to be close to the Mercy University Hospital for medical treatment, said she feared becoming homeless almost every day over the last two years.

“My feeling now is I have an apartment and we don’t have to move or worry. And we won’t be facing another letter about rent going up. The uncertainty is gone. It’s great,” she said.

Her neighbour, Andre Manuel, urged other tenants in a similar situation to unite.

“Don’t give up. I know people feel hopeless because they don’t know where to go, they don’t know where to start fighting, but there is hope. We did it,” he said.

Earlier: 'This is a victory for social housing' - Agency hopes to begin filling Leeside Apartments next week

By Vivienne Clarke

The housing agency, Clúid, has described the purchase of the 78-unit Leeside Apartments complex in Cork city as a "major milestone".

The apartments were bought by the agency, in conjunction with Cork City Council, from an investment company for €20m and they will be used for social housing and for rent to the private sector.

The agency’s new business manager James O’Halloran told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that to build the complex would have cost €25m to €26m, so the purchase represented very good value.

The Leeside Apartments complex at Bachelor's Quay in Cork contains 78 units in a mix of two-bed, three-bed and four-bed units, he explained.

At present, there are six HAP tenants in situ and a further six private tenants who will remain as clients of Clúid.

The deal removes the threat of eviction from existing tenants, while around 50 vacant units will be made available for social housing which will be filled from the social housing list.

Mr O'Halloran said that the purchase represents a major milestone for the agency.

"These units are finished to the highest standard and will provide people in Cork City with long-term, secure homes.

"Clúid has worked with Cork City Council to deliver these units in a matter of months and we hope to begin the process of filling the units next week.

"This project shows what can be achieved when stakeholders who are committed to housing delivery work together.

He added that, at present, Clúid is awaiting planning permission for 112 units in Blackpool on the city's northside and is working with Cork City Council and developers to identify additional sites.

"This purchase will help us in our aim of delivering 2,500 homes over three years."

The Leeside Apartments complex brings to 6,800 the number of properties operated by Clúid. Mr O'Halloran said. “That is 17,000 tenants paying affordable rents. We don’t sell, those units will always be available.

“This is a victory for social housing.”

Clúid is financing the development of the Leeside units through a combination of a Capital Advance and Availability Payment from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and a loan facility with the Housing Finance Agency (HFA). Cork City Council will act as a conduit for the departmental funding.

The rent on the units will be based on Cork City Council's rent policy and the council will retain full nomination rights on the properties.

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