A STAND-off ensued between Gardaí, demolition crews, and residents of Moyross yesterday, as locals protested the demolition of two council-owned houses, and argued that homeless families were begging the local authority for living spaces.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said it was inept to demolish houses as the city battled the worst housing crisis in recent history.
The two attached three-bedroom homes in Pineview Gardens, that had been upgraded and left vacant, were demolished after Gardaí ordered protestors away from the properties for their own safety.
Local resident and protestor Alan Daly said the demolition works were meant to be put on hold until there had been further consultation with residents.
“There are people homeless all over Limerick. We are in the middle of a homeless crisis and they are knocking two perfectly good houses,” said Mr Daly.
“I know of four or five different families who said they have applied for these houses. They are cramped into the houses they are in. There are nine people living in one house and 13 in another.”
Last November it emerged that more than 600 houses in the estate had been scheduled for demolition and that over €7 million had already been spent demolishing 381 units, amid ongoing concerns about major levels of family overcrowding.
Some of those living in cramped conditions said they had found it impossible to socially distance during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On June 1, local Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said homelessness in Limerick had “spiralled to new and concerning levels, never seen so bad” with the “latest figures telling us that there are 283 adults homeless in Limerick”.
Deputy Quinlivan said the actual number of homeless people was “much more as many are couch surfing, others living in very poor conditions often in extremely overcrowded homes, and many of these are on no lists”.
He described it as “shameful that the Mid West has 109 homeless children, the bulk of them in Limerick City” and he warned “we are facing a Tsunami of evictions in Limerick” due to people not being able to afford any type of housing due to the sharp rise in the cost of living.
There were more than 2,200 people on Limerick’s local authority housing waiting list at the start of this month.
Deputy Willie O’Dea said he had been assured by Limerick City and County Council last May that the houses in Pineview “wouldn’t be demolished without further consultation with the residents.
“I’m surprised that this action has been taken in view of the fact that nothing had been resolved. It’s the worst possible time to do this, the demolition of houses is the last thing you’d expect to see in view of the magnitude of the housing crisis.”
“It seems to be inept, to say the least of it, to be demolishing houses on one hand and building houses on the other hand,” Deputy O’Dea added.
Pineview resident Lisa Conway said Regeneration had pumped at least €30,000 in upgrade works at her home, after initially earmarking it for demolition.
She said she has been informed that her home has been again earmarked for demolition as part of a wider plan to redesign the area.
“So the now, the house they put €30,000 into, they want to knock, so me and my family will be looking for another home around Moyross,” she added.
A local group representing Moyross residents has submitted plans for 100 new houses to be built in the estate.
Paddy Flannery, a member of the group who also runs a local community enterprise centre in the estate, said residents in Pineview were consulted about local housing plans, including plans to demolish houses in Pineview.
He said he understood people’s concerns but that, in his opinion, more houses would have to be knocked as part of the ongoing regeneration of the area.
Mayor Daniel Butler said last September that Limerick Regeneration, which was launched to fanfare 14 years ago, had “failed” the communities it was tasked to help.
Over 1,287 homes have been demolished and around 300 homes have been newly built as part of Regeneration’s total €400 million spend.
A presentation by Regeneration to Councillors last September showed that 513 new housing units were to be built in Regeneration areas, including Moyross, Southill, Balinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park.
Last month Limerick City and County Council confirmed it had received Stage 1 approval for 20 new homes in Cliona Park, Moyross, and last March it announced construction of 57 new homes in Dalgaish Park and Cosgrave Park in the estate.
A spokesman for Limerick City and County Council said they were surprised that there was any opposition to the demolition of the buildings in Pineview Gardens.
“However, a decision to postpone the demolition was taken in response to concerns raised by a small number of residents.
“Following the postponement, Moyross Residents Forum conducted another door-to-door consultation exercise in Pineview which established there was no significant opposition to the demolition.
The Council then proceeded to demolish the buildings yesterday.
The spokesman said a presentation of the Limerick Development Plan was made at a special meeting of Limerick City and County Council on June 17, which included “zoning changes to Pineview Gardens, that were informed by a submission made by Moyross Residents Forum”.
The submission requested the removal of an element of Pineview Gardens from Open Space and Recreation zoning and the potential to progress future residential plans.
“The Moyross Residents Forum submission was produced in conjunction with Regeneration Directorate of Limerick City and County Council and endorsed by Moyross Regeneration Committee. This included a future Pineview Gardens proposal accommodating the retention of 61 existing residential units and the provision of infill units on a phased basis, the spokesman explained.
“This proposal also allowed for the progression of the demolition of numbers 1 and 2 Pineview Gardens as part of the overall plan to consolidate Pineview Gardens in accordance with good urban design principles.
“Numbers 1 and 2 were former Barnardos Offices that have been vacant for over five years,” he added.