1975 - 1990: Difficult Years
The 1970’s and 1980’s were a period of considerable difficulty for the Trust involving many changes and stressful decisions.
In 1973 there were plans afoot to build more accommodation for the elderly. A suitable site with planning permission was obtained at Simpson’s Hospital, Dundrum where work was to begin by mid 1974. However, anticipated government assistance for the project was not forthcoming and the scheme collapsed.
Inflation & Rent Controls
This disappointing outcome at Dundrum was symptomatic of wider economic developments and problems in the 1970’s which affected the finances of the Trust very adversely, bringing expansions to a halt and limiting the modernisation programme.
Difficulties were largely attributable to rampant price inflation and the Trust’s inability due to statutory rent restrictions to match sharply increased expenditure with necessary additional income. Another factor was the diminishing number of lodgers using the Iveagh Hostel with attendant loss of revenue.
Rent income was held back by the constraints of rent control under the Rent Restrictions Acts of 1960 and 1967. Rents for accommodation with shared facilities were strictly controlled by the law. At Kevin Street a large proportion of the old tenements had communal toilets and laundries and so fell under the restrictive controlled rent legislation.
There was no practical way of matching income with spiralling costs, and losses sustained on the Kevin Street estate were a major contribution towards the Trust’s deficits. Necessary improvements were delayed and the buildings deteriorated.
Possibilities of extricating controlled dwellings from the stringencies of the legislation were very limited; they depended on obtaining vacant possession of the premises and vacancies were very slow to appear. Difficulties were made worse in 1974 by a rent strike among the tenants dissatisfied with differential rent increases in uncontrolled property at Kevin Street and Bull Alley and with the introduction of a new form of refuse collection by Dublin Corporation which the tenants considered to be inconvenient.
Throughout the 1970’s, despite financial problems, some modernisation of older properties continued. Between 1972 and 82, for example, 72 self-contained units were created out of 114 flats which formerly had only communal toilet and laundry facilities. Improvements and reconditioning work were funded principally from sales of the Crumlin houses. The entire cost for improvement had to be raised by the Trust, as government grant-aid towards renewal was minimal. Creating a one-bedroom self contained unit on the Bull Alley estate, for example, cost £4,100, but the maximum grant was £400. Not only internal facilities required attention; uncharacteristic signs of dilapidation were appearing on the exterior of the old buildings which very evidently needed considerable repair and maintenance to keep them up to customary standards.
With a deficit of £54,765, 1975 was the worst financial year of the Trust since its inception. In view of the critical position the Trustees decided to form a sub-committee to consider the future role of the Trust. In 1976 the financial deficit reduced to £37,328 and thereafter the overall financial position continued to improve steadily. Financial difficulties, however, remained acute and much essential work could not be done.
In December 1975 the Trustees, very reluctantly, decided to close down the Play Centre owing to declining attendance and the costs involved in maintaining the Hostel. In 1976 the centre was purchased for £350,000 by the Dublin Vocational Educational Committee for use as a school.
The sale enabled the Trust to show a surplus in 1977 and clear indebtedness to the bank. By the late 1970’s there were still heavy losses on flats covered by rent restriction but net rentals were increasing significantly as a result of completed improvement work on Kevin Street and Bull Alley estates.
In 1975 Lord Moyne resigned as chairman of the Trustees, a position he had held since 1962, and the third Earl of Iveagh, who had been a Trustee since 1958, succeeded him. Lord Moyne continued as an active and valued trustee. In the same year Mr. A.E. Thompson retired from the secretaryship after 22 years and Mr. F.P. Stephens took over the administration of the Trust in the midst of its difficulties.
By the early 1980’s, 25% of the older Trust property had been modernised, almost entirely through the sale of realisable assets. These funds were now completely exhausted and rent income still held back by the constraints of rent control. Modernisation would have to be seriously curtailed unless fresh funding became available.
The introduction of the Housing (Private Rented Dwelling) Act in July 1982 was important for the Trust. Realistic rents were made possible for properties which had been subject to rent control. Characteristically, however, rent increases for trust dwellings were phased in over a number of years to lighten the immediate burden on tenants.
With this new freedom, improvement work was stepped up in the older properties and they were subsequently let at realistic rents, mainly to young married couples. Self contained flats were progressively modernised and shared accommodation converted to self-contained units.
However, financial fortunes fluctuated disturbingly from year to year. In 1985 the financial position deteriorated, mainly owing to increased maintenance costs and an increasing deficit from the Iveagh Hostel. The improvement programme was slowed down. In 1986 finances improved slightly although the decline in use of the Hostel continued as a resulting deficit of £54,548 was sustained despite £24,000 in Dublin Corporation and Eastern Health Board grants.
Redevelopment: Moyne House
In 1987 a major redevelopment programme was commenced involving three elements. At Bull Alley fifteen vacant dwellings with shared facilities were refurbished making ten self contained residential units. The cost of this work was £105,000 for which £39,500 was received from the Department of the Environment.
Secondly, plans were prepared for the conversion of an unused end of the Iveagh Hostel to provide sheltered housing for the elderly. This was the first of an ambitious project to refurbish the entire building. Disused cubicles were converted to 16 apartments as part of phase 1 with a further 12 added in subsequent years. Phase 1 cost £375,000, financed largely through the Department of the Environment loan and subsidy scheme for voluntary housing bodies.
On completion the building was named Moyne House, to honour 60 years of continuous service as a Trustee by Bryan Walter Guinness, 2nd Lord Moyne.
Thirdly, on the Kevin Street estate a major scheme was initiated to refurbish the 3 blocks opened in 1901, aiming to provide 52 self-contained units out of 100 original flats with shared basic facilities. Costing approximately £1m, 80% of which has been obtained from the Department of the Environment.