Tenants who had been facing mass eviction from a Cork city apartment block by a vulture fund have been saved from possible homelessness thanks to a multi-million social housing property deal.
The pioneering deal on the Leeside apartment complex, which is understood to be worth well over €15m, came following months of confidential negotiations, led by Cork City Council in collaboration with Clúid Housing Association, with Lugus Capital.
Lugus, which bought the four-block complex in late 2017, was effectively acting as local agent on behalf of the international vulture fund Bain Capital.
The Irish Examiner has learned that Clúid now owns the entire Bachelor’s Quay complex, overlooking the north channel of the river Lee. It is in turnkey condition.
Some 13 households issued with eviction notices by Lugus in 2017 will continue to live in the complex. A further 59 apartments will be offered to people on the city’s social housing list and six will be offered to rent in the private market.
With emergency shelter figures breaking the 10,000 mark for the first time, the deal was hailed last night as a “landmark victory” for the housing movement.
Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan, who has been supporting the tenants in their campaign against eviction, said the deal should serve as a template for other local authorities to follow.
“Huge congratulations are due to the Leeside residents,” said Ms Ryan.
“Evictions can be defeated by people power — that is the message that needs to go out now far and wide.”
It shows that public housing and public ownership are key to tackling this housing crisis. Where mass evictions are threatened by big landlords or vulture funds, the Government should take the proporties into public ownership without compensation, halt the evictions and convert them to public housing.
"With 10,000 in emergency accommodation, this would mean we could not only save homes but where possible, as in this case, actually provide new ones.”
Within weeks of acquiring the building, Lugus issued eviction notices to tenants to facilitate a €3m refurbishment of the entire building to address a range of fire safety issues.
Tenants fought the evictions and despite losing an RTB case last year, they continued their campaign. They eventually forced Lugus to concede on the evictions issue last summer which meant they could stay in the apartment complex, but relocate to other units while the refurb continued.
They agreed a non-disclosure agreement which effectively gagged them from commenting publicly on their campaign — until yesterday.
Clúid spokesman James O’Halloran said the deal represents a major milestone for the association.
“These units are finished to the highest standard and will provide people in Cork city with long-term, secure homes,” he said.
“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 been achieved when stakeholders who are committed to housing delivery work together.”
The city council’s director of housing, Brian Geaney, said the deal is another example of the council taking a pioneering role in relation to the delivery of social housing. It also demonstrates the city’s ability to take a multi-faceted approach to finding solutions to housing challenges, said Mr Geaney.
News of the deal emerged as the Government was accused of presiding over a “national scandal” as the homeless figures exceeded 10,000 for the first time — 6,480 adults and 3,784 children.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said he is disappointed with the figures but added that the Government is working on a complex response to the issue.
He also rejected calls to prevent evictions by landlords, insisting that the Government has to strike a balance in addressing the housing crisis.