Government urged to set up National Relocation Scheme for homeless families

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The Government has been urged to set up a national relocation scheme to take hundreds of families out of homelessness each year.

Independent TD Michael Harty has called on the Government to establish a centralised relocation system which would free up homes in high pressure urban areas and in doing so would rejuvenate rural towns and villages.

"If 10 villages in each county offered a voluntary relocation solution every year, which is quite feasible, 520 families would benefit while allowing other families to move into the vacated accommodation," Dr Harty told the Dáil.

"To make such a scheme work and to scale it up from the example I have described, a central point of contact must be established within the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

"Through that contact point, communities could give notice of wishing to participate in a scheme like this and local authorities could engage together to allow such a scheme to proceed."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Dáil that the Department of Housing is currently reviewing how best to facilitate people who want to move from areas with long housing lists to other parts of the country where the opposite may be the case.

Mr Harty called for the rollout of a national scheme and used the example of a man who had been living in a local authority house in a high pressure area who had recently relocated to Kilmihil, Co Clare.

"He was giving up a three-bedroom council house which he did not need as his family had grown up and moved away. He benefited from moving back to his local area and the local authority was benefitting by having that house available for a family. As such, two families benefited from this. The local authority also benefited."

Sinn Féin's Dáil deputy leader Pearse Doherty accused the "posh boys and girls of Fine Gael" of failing to grasp the reality of the housing crisis.

"The reality is that those on the Government benches will never have to struggle," Mr Doherty said amid considerable heckling.

Responding, Mr Coveney said:

When the Deputy gets into the space of name-calling and trying to turn this into some kind of class war debate it is proof that Sinn Féin is losing the argument.

He said the suggestions put forward by Sinn Féin would only make the housing crisis worse, adding that it takes time to fix something as fundamental as a broken housing market.

Mr Doherty had called for three measures: a tax relief equal to one month's rent for every renter not already supported by the State; the introduction of a three-year rent freeze; and the introduction of legislation to ensure that landlords will not evict their tenants into homelessness.

Pointing to the Raise the Roof rally, taking place this weekend, Solidarity-PBP TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said the number of children in homeless accommodation has gone up by 247% since the Government came into office.

He demanded that the budget for the direct construction of council housing and affordable housing on public land be doubled.

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