Families’ frantic search for housing after Navan apartment fire drama

With up to 100 people homeless this week due to the fire at Navan's Academy Square and just three homes for rent in the entire County on Daft.ie this week, Meath County Council is facing a major homelessness crisis.

The fire which swept through the basement car park of Academy Square on Bank Holiday Monday has resulted in 34 apartments being evacuated and residents have been told it could be at least six months before they can return.

The search for accommodation for the families and individuals affected combined with the already serious homelessness problem in the county has led to calls on Meath County Council to up their supply of emergency accommodation and modular homes.

Many of the residents of the 35 apartments are now homeless, some have been offered temporary accommodation in Bettystown and Drogheda while others were offered temporary accommodation in camp-beds in the Navan Enterprise Centre.

The fire broke out in the basement floor of the apartment complex on Bank Monday evening and while nobody was injured, services including water and electricity are no longer connected to 34 homes. The cause of the fire is being investigated by An Garda Siochana, who are treating the incident as “suspected criminal damage” following a technical examination.

Gardai say they have identified a number of suspects from CCTV and are following a definite line of enquiry. They are appealing to any person who may have been in the area between 6pm and 7pm on Monday and observed any unusual activity.

Finding alternative housing at very short notice is proving extremely difficult for both residents and Meath County Council who met with residents in the Newgrange hotel on Tuesday to provide assistance.

A spokesperson for Meath County Council said its Department has worked to assist the Management Company and affected residents, including the provision of emergency accommodation where appropriate.

A spokesperson for the management company, Oriel Property Management confirmed that 34 properties had to be evacuated.

He said that they already had contractors onsite to carry out a number of emergency measures and they were dealing with insurers, tenants, home owners, Meath County Council, the fire services and gardai.

Loss adjusters have been meeting and they are engaging with all the relevant authorities.

"It has been horrendous. It is such a large loss and a huge amount of damage and it is likely to be a minimum of six months before the residents can move in again," he said.

Cllr Alan Lawes said Meath County Council had offered temporary accommodation to some of the residents in Bettystown and Drogheda.

"There are only three properties for rent in Meath on Daft.ie today," he said speaking on Monday.

"The huge numbers affected by the Academy Square fire on top of the numbers that are coming into homelessness all the time for other reasons is going to put a huge strain on Meath County Council's emergency accommodation.

"The council needs more beds around Navan, as the town is a transport hub and people will be able to get to it. Sending people from Navan to Bettystown or Drogheda means they cannot get to work," he said.

Cllr Lawes pointed out that the former Randal house in Navan had been made available for emergency housing as a site for modular homes and asked why the council hadn't availed of the opportunity.

Cllr Emer Tóibín met with many of the residents outside the damaged apartment blocks and in the Newgrange Hotel where MCC housing staff provided advice and local housing options to many of the affected residents.

"To date, what has been offered to residents by the Council is a camp-bed in an industrial building" she said.

''For the 100 or so affected individuals and families, this is a very anxious and worrying time. Some tenants literally moved in last week to the area and now literally have no where to go. They thought they were so lucky to secure their apartment and now they face the whole fraught process again. They do not have friends or family locally or even in the country. They are totally dependent on the Council to provide emergency accommodation. Even at that, we know from working in the area of this ongoing housing crisis, there is hardly any available emergency accommodation available in the county. People can't get to their jobs because they literally do not know where they will be sleeping this night or the night after. It is an awfully difficult and trying time for so many''

''I would beseech Oriel Management Company to communicate as much information about process timelines to the apartment residents so everyone can make the best plans for themselves and their children. This situation is hugely difficult and uncertain for all concerned. How it is handled by the powers that be will certainly have a huge bearing on the outcomes for all concerned,” she said.

The Mayor of Navan, Cllr Eddie Fennessy said: “Electricity infrastructure was damaged considerably by the fire and 30 apartments had to be evacuated, the consequences of which has left up to 100 people homeless.

"I commend Meath Co Council's Homeless Settlement team for engaging with the residents first thing on Tuesday morning.

“Emergency accommodation was offered which was a huge relief to the affected residents. This incident couldn't have happened at a worse time.

“Emergency homeless services in Meath has operated at capacity for quite some time and the local private rental sector doesn't have much to offer those who might have to seek replacement accommodation," he said.