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Boom and Bust

Priory Hall residents watch their homes ‘deteriorate beyond repair’

Almost two years since they were evacuated over fire concerns, Priory Hall residents remain uncertain about their future.

Updated 7.46pm

IT IS COMING up to the second anniversary of the evacuation of Priory Hall, a Celtic Tiger development that promised the world to first-time buyers but delivered only a 22-month nightmare.

Sitting idle and empty since 17 October 2011, the Donaghmede complex has now “deteriorated beyond repair”, according to one resident.

“I think with the passage of time, the possibility of anyone going back is zero,” says Graham Usher, spokesperson for the residents’ group. “I don’t think it is going to happen. Families will not be happy to go back to that environment.”

Coincidentally, the week of the second anniversary – beginning 14 October – will also see the 256 residents back in the Supreme Court to hear if Dublin City Council will be obliged to continue paying the cost of their temporary accommodation. (Since 2011, they have been living in various properties in the vicinity. Many are NAMA-owned but full market rates are paid by the council.)

The local authority has already spent more than €3 million dealing with the crisis, including payment for 24-hour security at the premises, new housing arrangements for residents and legal costs. It believes it should no longer be responsible for the housing costs, as was set out in an earlier High Court order.

If the council is successful in its appeal, the residents will have to start paying rent, while their mortgage payments continue to fall due.

The majority have now stopped meeting their mortgage repayments in the hope that it will spark action from their lenders.

“To say the resolution process is going slowly is no exaggeration,” says Usher. “The problem is the banks and getting any decision from them.”

There has also been very little mobilisation by politicians.

“The process becomes a convenient excuse for them to do nothing,” according to Usher.

The banks are not making a decision and politicians are unwilling or unable to do anything.

“We are ready to find a solution but are stuck waiting for any kind of engagement. It is hard to pinpoint a best-case scenario without their viewpoint.

“We are at our wits end. The best description of how we are feeling is one of sheer and utter frustration. Everyone around us is moving on with their lives but we are stuck.”

Cabinet Ministers have cited new personal insolvency legislation as a possible solution to the Priory Hall problem but Usher dismisses the idea.

“Under no circumstances will the residents consider that as a solution. Despite the attempts by some to lump us into that category, this is not a mortgage arrears issue,” he explained. “Why should families commit to living on the breadline to satisfy the banks because of a problem we did not create?”

“Priory Hall is the only case in the country where we can pay our mortgages but still lost our homes. It is a unique situation that require a unique solution.”

Dublin City Council has said that it has acted in the best interests of the residents, insisting that it is pursuing the issue through the courts in an attempt to clarify matters.

Originally published 7.45am

In pictures: Families pack their belongings at Priory Hall

Column: ‘I loved living in Priory Hall. I loved this apartment’

See’s coverage of the Priory Hall crisis

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