Tánaiste Micheál Martin launched the Peter McVerry Trust’s new social housing project ‘Centenary House’ in Charleville on Friday, which will see nine apartments made available for people on the housing waiting list.
Derelict since 1972, the former Christian Brothers School on Main Street has been restored over the past two years, with the €2.7m in funding coming from Cork County Council under the Department for Housing’s Capital Assistance Scheme.
The project is the latest in a growing list of innovative social housing projects delivered by Peter McVerry Trust that specialises in reusing derelict, empty buildings to create new homes. The school has been a landmark on Charleville’s Main Street since 1866 and was attended by President Éamon de Valera for three years between 1896 and 1898, with the teenage schoolboy walking seven miles each day from Bruree, Co Limerick.
Remodelled in the 1920s and closed in 1972, the building was delisted in 2014, and used by various community groups until it fell into a state of disrepair in more recent years.
The first tenants have already moved into their new homes in Centenary House, soon to be fully occupied. The property consists of seven one-bed apartments as well as a three-bed and a two-bed apartment for families, along with communal garden facilities developed for the enjoyment of tenants. The new homes range from 44sqm to 90sqm in size.
Peter McVerry Trust deputy CEO Brian Friel told The Echo that it’s an example of what can be done with a dilapidated property that had fallen into disuse, and which had been providing no benefit to the community. “It’s now been transformed,” he said. “It has been turned into nine beautiful apartments that people from the local area can come and live in.”
The project is one of four underway in Charleville.
“There is no competition in the market with first time buyers. In the absence of the Trust turning this into social housing, it would have remained an old derelict building. That’s what it shows can be done,” said Mr Friel.
Earlier in the week, the Tánaiste said Ireland had “turned a corner” in tackling homelessness. Mr Friel said that anyone looking at the numbers would see that “we have a way to go” yet, with 12,000 still homeless.
Every unit goes that little way towards ending the homelessness crisis, he said. “This may be small, but every unit, they all add up over time. The trust now has more housing than we do homeless services.” Mr Friel said the housing minister should continue to increase supply.
The Peter McVerry Trust opened its regional headquarters in Cork City that services the entire southern region, in 2021. “That regional office in Cork is a repurposed old bank. The trust turned that into five beautiful apartments in a city-centre location. What was derelict is now inhabited.” Peter McVerry Trust is active in 11 towns across Cork and delivered 48 homes for people impacted by homelessness in the county since January of last year.
The Peter McVerry Trust worked with 125 people in Cork in 2022. In 2023 the charity will deliver another 45 homes in Cork, with 30 in the city.
“We are supporting about 77 people in tenancies in the broader Cork area. And we are going to build on that. This is one of a number of projects,” said Mr Friel.
Applicants come from all walks of life and are nominated from the council’s housing waiting list.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “It is greatly encouraging to see a derelict building brought back into use for social homes, particularly one of such historic importance. Peter McVerry Trust is a valued partner in the Government’s efforts to tackle homelessness. The delivery of more one-bedroom homes is a crucial part of successfully delivering programmes such as Housing First and reducing the number of people impacted by homelessness in Ireland.”
Peter McVerry Trust CEO Pat Doyle said: “this building is particularly special given its historic landmark status in the heart of the town. All Peter McVerry Trust tenants who will make this their new home will receive ongoing supports from our local housing with supports team and will come from the local authority housing list.”