A housing expert has said creating accommodation for asylum seekers in office blocks “is the right way to go”.
“We have to house people in whatever way we can that is fit for human habitation,” Professor Tom Phillips told Newstalk radio.
Prof Phillips, from the school of architecture at University College Dublin, was commenting on the announcement that former office blocks in Galway and Santry are to be used to provide accommodation for international protection applicants.
The Government is also planning to tender for floating accommodation to house asylum seekers amid unprecedented pressure on the State’s integration system, which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described on Tuesday as a “major crisis”.
However, if it proceeds, the use of so-called floatels is not expected until later in the year, meaning it will not help the Coalition’s push to drive down the current number of “unaccommodated” asylum seekers.
Prof Phillips said: “We already have a situation where the Government has introduced these policies to allow the repurposing of now defunct pubs a few years ago. We have a system in the planning regulation that allows the repurposing of office blocks of certain sizes for permanent accommodation.
“We have a housing crisis and we have a large influx of people. They have to be housed somewhere and we already have a housing crisis of the [local] population.
“So, we have to look at innovative ways and I think the repurposing of an office block to be used for short-term accommodation for people while they find their feet – or while something else is found for them – is the right way to go.”
Office blocks in city centres were unlikely to be suitable because of the depth of the floorspace – how far it is from window to window across the building, he explained. However, smaller, suburban office blocks were likely to be more suitable and boats could also be used.
“None of these are being put forward as permanent solutions, but they have to be done as short-term solutions. It’s a lot better than having people living in tents as you go up and down Mount Street. So, if we can put people somewhere that’s safe, I think that’s a good thing.”