The number of Ukraine refugees in Ireland could equal a town the size of Navan by the end of the week, according to a housing expert, as fears grow over the country’s capacity to provide accommodation.
About 21,000 refugees had arrived into the country from Ukraine as of the weekend as they fled their country's invasion by Russia. Navan in Co Meath has a population of some 30,000 people.
Amid the possibility of refugees being housed in large communal halls or military-style accommodation, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the number of public pledges to house refugees had not been “as large as originally anticipated”.
Housing expert Dr Lorcan Sirr on Monday suggested that the Government pay holiday home owners a flat rate to make their premises available for people who had fled Ukraine.
“We’re not going to build our way out of this. It will take years,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Accessing vacant homes could take six to 12 months while building – even modular homes – would take 12 to 24 months, he explained.
There are 62,000 holiday homes around the country, 1,000 in Dublin alone, which could be accessed immediately, Dr Sirr said. Some are in congregated settings which would be even better, he added.
There were two routes the Government could follow, he said, through voluntary pledges or by paying a flat rate of €300 to €400 per month. Even if only 10 per cent of holiday homes were made available, that would free up considerable accommodation while 20 per cent would be even better.
If families wanted to take a break at their holiday home they could do a swap with their own home. Such flexibility would make “a good stream of housing” available and would not be competing with the rental sector.
Hotels were going to want their accommodation back for the tourist season, he pointed out.
Military accommodation was a short-term solution. “You can’t have children sleeping on cots.”
The situation had unfolded “very rapidly” so it had been difficult for the authorities to inspect every property and there had been “some horror stories” about unsuitable accommodation.
Estate agents were in a good position to identify vacant housing stock, he said. Purpose built apartments were completed at a rate of 450 per month in the past year, with that figure likely to increase even more this year, so if even a fraction of such properties became available that would also help.