The Government’s efforts to resolve the homelessness and housing crisis are nowhere near what is needed, a leading rights group has warned
Social Justice Ireland called for a new funding system to meet demand and claimed only 20 council homes for families had been completed in the first three months of the year.
The think-tank said charities were making up some of the shortfall with 117 houses or apartments finished by them in the same period.
Director Dr Sean Healy hit out at the Government’s priorities.
“We are focusing far too much on the performance of the economy and not nearly enough on issues such as ageing, social housing and sustainability, that have major implications for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole,” he said.
“A balance is required between the various aspects of life if the well-being of this and future generations is to be secured.”
Dr Healy suggested the National Assets Management Agency could be tasked with accessing cheap funding, off the Exchequer balance sheet, to raise money to build more social, council and voluntary housing to meet demand.
He also called for more resources to ensure tenants’ rights are protected.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said last week that about 800 properties had been provided, or were in the process of being provided, specifically to house homeless families since January.
The housing proposal was published as part of Dr Healy’s National Social Monitor, which also called for more investment to prepare for Ireland’s ageing population, sustainability and to improve healthcare.
Social Justice Ireland said that although Ireland has a young population by European standards, by 2031 almost one million people in Ireland will be over 65 with 136,000 being over 85.
The group said the economic recovery, including growing jobs, was to be welcomed but the country was still swamped by debt and has increasing pressure on public services and major infrastructure deficits.
Ireland has a sustained problem with poverty, particularly child poverty, and faces challenges in terms of literacy and numeracy among adults, the report warned.
Michelle Murphy, Social Justice Ireland research and policy analyst, said: “Whilst we are, as people, living longer, which is a positive, we are not planning in advance as to how we are going to look after each other when we get to old age.
“We need to plan now for such events. It is not as if this might happen in the future, it is already happening. This level of population ageing will be associated with higher levels of disability and long-term ill-health, and this requires planning and investment.”
Social Justice Ireland said building an all-inclusive society “is not a pipe-dream as some commentators seem to think”.