Housing asylum seekers in office blocks “is the right way to go”, a professor of architecture has said.
Amid a severe shortage of housing, the State has been unable to provide some asylum seekers with accommodation and some have ended up sleeping in tents on Dublin’s Mount Street.
The Government has since announced that former office blocks in Galway and Santry are to be used and Associate Professor of Architecture Tom Phillips said it was a symptom of the scale of the problem.
“We have to house people in whatever way we can that is fit for human habitation,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“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.
“So, we have a housing crisis and we have a large influx of people.”
In October last year, there were 16,500 people accommodated in the International Protection Accommodation System (IPAS) - more than doubled the figure for the previous year.
In addition, the State has found housing for some 42,000 Ukrainians and officials have said the influx has led to “significant shortages” in accommodation.
“They have to be housed somewhere and we already have a housing crisis of the [local] population,” Professor Phillips said.
“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.”
Professor Phillips said 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.”
However, he said smaller, suburban office blocks were likely to be more suitable and boats - so-called ‘floatels’ - could also be used.
“None of these are being put forward as permanent solutions but they have to be done as short-term solutions,” he said.
“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.”
Minister Roderic O'Gorman confirmed this week that the use of 'floatels' is being considered for the first time.
Main image: A largely empty office block in Dublin's city centre.