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The modular homes in Mahon, Cork.
modular homes

New modular homes for refugees in Cork could be shipped to Ukraine in the future

In the coming days, Ukrainian families will move into the first rapid build housing units to be brought on stream.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Jun 2023

A SPOKESPERSON FOR the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said that it is possible for new modular homes that Ukrainian refugees will be moving into from this week in Mahon, Cork, to be “put on a ship and sent to Ukraine” if the Government decides to do so. 

The housing units, which will become home to 64 Ukrainian families of four in the next month, are on a site which Cork City Council offered to the State to be used for this purpose under emergency planning. 

This rapid build site will be the first to house Ukrainians since the Government gave the programme the green light last year as part of its humanitarian response to the crisis in Ukraine. 

Previously, the Government aimed to bring 700 modular homes on stream between January and February of this year, but the process has been held back by delays, and units are now being brought on stream via a “staggered approach”. 

The housing units have two bedrooms, one with bunk beds, and a master bedroom with two single beds. 

They are outfitted with all the basic kitchen appliances, and are fully furnished, but additional appliances such as TVs will have to be purchased by the families who move in. 

That planning will last for three years, after which time, the site will be subject to normal planning procedures in the hands of the local authority, and the fate of the housing units themselves will be up to the Government. 

Today officials from the OPW and the Department of Children and Integration gave a tour of the site in Mahon and one of the housing units, which they said are of a quality that meets Irish standards and regulations for apartments. 

“If the Government decided they wanted to give these units afterwards to the Ukraine to rebuild, they can be lifted up, put on a truck, put on a ship and sent to the Ukraine, and we can use the site, which is connected to all the essential services,” the OPW spokesperson said. 

A spokesperson from the Department of Children added that other purposes are being considered for the homes, such as villages for older people, and social housing. 

The units themselves have a life-span of 60 years, the OPW official said. 

“The units were made very quickly. The biggest issue was actually the sites, around 85% of the sites offered to us actually were not suitable, even this one in Mahon required a lot of work – there was knotweed and other issues that had to be resolved. 

“Now we have a site that was vacant for four to five decades put into use, and can be used by the local authority beyond this project – so that is of long-term benefit,” he added. 

The OPW is now working on developing a rapid build two-storey unit of the same variation as the ones in Mahon. 

The official present at the tour from the Department of Integration said that one of the best parts of this project has been how involved the community in Mahon has been, 

“Everyone has been so positive about this in Cork. From the moment it was brought to Cork, we’ve had meetings with various local stakeholders and groups and everybody has engaged,” she said. 

She said that all of the families who will be living at the Mahon site have been identified. 

“These will be people’s homes as part of the local community, and in a few months time children will be playing outside here, and it will be like any other housing estate. The housing units are designed for families of four, that is part of the allocation policy.

“We looked at people in emergency accommodation as near as possible to the site so we didn’t have to have a lot of children moving schools, so we didn’t disrupt GP services,” she added. 

The Department of Integration said that this allocation policy will be applied to the other sites that are due to come on stream – people will be selected from the immediate area and then the allocation team will look further afield “moving out from the area in circles”. 

It is being done in this way to avoid a large number of children having to move schools, and families having to find new GPs. 

Michelle Buckley, who is a local volunteer youth leader with Foróige, said that Mahon is ready to welcome the Ukrainian families with open arms. 

“Mahon is a small community with a massive heart.

“We have services for youth coming here, we have a community centre with bingo, we have projects for people to get involved with, we have the Mahon Rangers, and we are all ready to get to know our new neighbours. 

“We have the healthcare facilities, and every other kind of facility needed for the people who are going to move in here, they will be looked after,” she added. 

The Department said that any emergency accommodation spaces left vacant in hotels and B&Bs after the families move into the Mahon site will be filled immediately, as there is high demand. 

Currently, the seven sites being developed for rapid build modular housing are earmarked to house only Ukrainian refugees who have come to Ireland to escape the war – the units are not being offered to International Protection Applicants from other countries.  

The OPW official stated that the houses have been designed in a way that is similar to the layout of public housing. 

In the next three to four weeks more modular homes are going to come on stream in other sites, and then there will be a “slight pause” in the rollout, according to the OPW, before more homes become occupied later in the year. 

10,000 refugees

Speaking in Clonmel, Co Tipperary today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is working to provide accommodation for 10,000 refugees in refurbished buildings by the end of next year.

Varadkar said Ireland was facing a refugee crisis the scale of which could never have been imagined, adding it was hard to estimate when alternative accommodation could be secured for all those currently staying in hotels and B&Bs.

He also noted progress was being made to construct modular homes for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Varadkar said.

“Nearly 100,000 people have come to Ireland in the past year, mostly from Ukraine, but also from other parts of the world, and it is actually a considerable achievement that we managed to provide shelter and accommodation for almost all of them,” he said. 

“We had a very good meeting of the cabinet sub-committee last night so we believe that we can provide about 10,000 bed places, if you like, in refurbished accommodation,” the Taoiseach said. 

“The modulars are now a reality, the first ones are ready for occupation now in Cork and we’re going to scale them up as well,” he added. 

“And we now have about 10,000 people living in people’s homes or in homes that were empty and had been pledged for accommodation.”

However, he said the real challenge “is that numbers keep coming in”.

“Still people arriving from Ukraine, fleeing war there,” he said. 

“And of course, like all countries, thousands of people from other parts of the world are seeking international protection here,” Varadkar said.

“So it’s going to be a real challenge to get ahead of that. Because where we’d like to be is to get ahead of that and be able to start decanting people out of hotels and B&Bs and freeing up that accommodation again for tourism, but hard to see exactly when that’s going to be.”

With reporting by Press Association

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