THE BLOCKADE in Inch and the burnt-out tent village in Dublin city centre have focused attention on the issues surrounding the housing of asylum seekers and those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
It has also drawn more attention to the big bucks being generated in this game for the accommodation providers. One such outfit is the little-known Eastpoint Investments BP (EIBP), which was referred to in the Irish Times last week as the entity behind a project to house 66 immigrants in two properties on leafy Charleston Road in D6.
The IT story noted that Nos 15 and 16 are set to host 66 asylum seekers, with the properties now owned by EIBP. According to land registry records, the houses were acquired by the company in 2019 and 2020, with funding provided by the Emerald Sky and Precision Financial Consultants funds.
The total acquisition cost came to almost €2.7m and, based on the sort of business model that is understood to apply to the provision of asylum accommodation, the owners might make their money back before too long.
EIBP is owned by two Elkstone Partners suits, Ruairí O’Neill (a co-founder of the operation and head of clients) and fellow co-founder Ciarán McIntyre, head of real estate. (In Elkstone, the role of ‘business development executive’ is held by one Rob Kearney, who has developed quite the appetite for business gigs since his Ireland and Leinster rugby days.)
The EIBP accounts for the year to January 2021 reveal a loss for the 12 months of €240,000 but investment property was valued at €2.7m, with the lenders owed €3m at the end of January 2021, including interest accrued.
In September 2021, Ruairí O’Neill and McIntyre sought planning permission for a major overhaul of the two D6 properties, involving their conversion from guesthouses to two “individual family residences”. The scheme proposed a significant renovation of Nos 15 and 16 Charleston Road, as well as the addition of two large extensions over basements to the rear.
The plan got the greenlight from the planners in November 2021 but an appeal by a neighbour threw a spanner in the works and it was only earlier this month that the final planning permission was granted to EIBP.
In the meantime, however, the deal to provide temporary emergency accommodation for 66 international protection applicants was tabled, so it looks like the planning permission will go on hold for a couple of years – the period covered by the proposed contract between Roderic O’Gorman’s integration department and EIBP.
Certainly, the savvy move for Ruairí O’Neill and McIntyre is to step into the business of providing emergency accommodation, given that the field is seen as extremely profitable.
Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers recently claimed: “Accommodation providers are getting rich very quickly and it’s proving very lucrative to house refugees.”
A back-of-the-envelope calculation referred to in the Irish Times suggested that a converted nursing home with 22 beds that cost €2m to buy and fit-out could generate enough profit to repay its owners in full within four years.
If Ruairí O’Neill and McIntyre are looking at anything like that quantity of jam (and on Charleston Road there are 66 beds being provided), then the accommodation contract could deliver a return on their investment a hell of a lot quicker than they imagined when buying the properties a couple of years ago.