Charity wants tax on Dublin's 35,000 empty houses as capital sees record level of homelessness

Taxes should be slapped on Dublin's 35,000 empty homes as the number of rough sleepers in the capital soars, homelessness campaigners have said.

Latest official figures show a 56% rise in the numbers sleeping on the streets of the capital since last winter.

And the true scale of the crisis is believed to be much worse when 'hidden homeless' numbers are taken into account.

At least 142 people were sleeping on the streets last week during a twice-yearly official count.

Another 77 people were seeking warmth and shelter on a Tuesday night at the Night Cafe drop-in homeless centre on Merchants Quay.

The figures were released as weather forecasters predicted temperatures will plunge to as low as minus-6C this week.

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the housing charity Peter McVerry Trust, said forcing tens of thousands of homes lying empty across the city back into residential use would have a huge impact.

"There are just over 35,000 vacant private homes in Dublin," he said.

"While not all of these can be immediately returned to use, a significant proportion can and must be.

"The only way to do this effectively is to introduce a vacant property tax to push the houses back into the system, either for rent or for sale."

Mr Doyle said most of the empty homes are in areas where there is huge housing need but little scope to build new housing developments.

Sam McGuinness, of homeless charity Dublin Simon Community, said official figures are merely a minimum and do not include the hidden homeless "who are concealed and unseen in nooks across the city".

"Over the past number of months, we have been counting record levels of people bedding down in a small central area of the inner city alone," he said.

"On September 20, we recorded our highest figure this year at 168. This was followed by 164 on October 4 and 162 on November 18.

"Again, this does not take into account more than 70 people who are without a bed in the Night Cafe."

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