Government told: Build 90,000 social homes or admit failure

More than 90,000 social homes and apartments need to be built in the next five years or the Government will have to admit failure on the housing and homelessness crisis, campaigners have claimed.

Social Justice Ireland warned Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy that current attempts to solve the unprecedented problems are doomed.

The think-tank said that if 93,000 houses could be built in a year at the height of Ireland's property bubble then a similar number should be targeted to clear waiting lists in five years.

Dr Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said the Government could set up a special body to borrow money at record low interest rates off-balance sheet to pay for new social housing.

"If the Government does not build 90,000-plus social housing units, that's houses and apartments, it's going to have to face up to the fact that the housing strategy is going to fail," he said.

"At the minute, all you are doing, for whatever reason, is driving up the price of houses."

There are 91,600 households on local authority housing waiting lists - half of which are families.

Nearly 8,000 people are in emergency homeless accommodation such as hotels, hostels, family hubs and B&Bs, including 2,895 children.

Dr Healy said: "They can't afford to buy. They are renting and they are all priced out of the sector or they are homeless.

"Our solution is very straightforward. Build 90,000 units and that takes 90,000 families or households out of the private rented sector, that reduces demand and that brings down costs."

There are 186,000 houses and apartments lying empty across the state.

Social Justice Ireland said the state could offer part of the current local authority social housing stock as collateral to borrow money off-balance sheet for new homes.

In its Social Policy Monitor it also raised concerns about the lack of planning for an ageing population.

It said there will be a million over-65s by 2031 and called on the Government to address the lack of funding and support for older people to live in their own homes.

Fewer people got a home help package in 2015 than in 2008, the think-tank said, and 2.24 million fewer hours were delivered.

The report also raised concerns about the work of carers, with those who do it unpaid now accounting for 4.1% of the population and giving thousands of hours to the economy free of charge.

It said 114,883 people provide up to 28 hours of unpaid care every week

Social Justice Ireland called for increased funding to reduce the financial and emotional pressures on carers.

The think-tank's report also called for more ambitious emissions targets for 2030 and an increased tax take to pay for services and infrastructure.

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