Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has warned that another 25,000 families could lose their homes unless the Government takes drastic action.
Fr McVerry praised the occupation of the empty Apollo House office block by the Home Sweet Home movement for highlighting the problem of people living on the streets.
“We have more homeless people today in Ireland than at any time since the Famine,” the priest told The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.
“And the reasons for people becoming homeless are much the same as during the Famine.
“They are being evicted from their private rented accommodation because they can’t afford to pay their rents. During the Famine it was foreign landlords, English landlords, who were evicting Irish tenants.
“Today it is increasingly vulture funds, foreign landlords, evicting Irish tenants. We have come right back to the 1860s and yet we are the 14th wealthiest country in the world.
“Something has seriously, seriously gone wrong. The whole economy is focused on money, money, money and greed, greed, greed and creating wealth. People have been left out and forgotten,” he said.
The campaigner said there were 50,000 homes in mortgage arrears of over two years, the vast bulk of them unrepayable.
“Without urgent legislation, such as mortgage-to-rent legislation being obligatory on the banks, we could end up with 25,000 of those houses being repossessed by the banks and 25,000 families plunged into homelessness. That is a real scenario over the next few years.”
Banks were not interested in making deals with individual householders, he said, but wanted to sell off properties in bulk to vulture funds.
“But we have got to put people first. It is money that is speaking and money that is making the decisions but we have to put people first,” he said.
He said mortgage-to-rent schemes where houses are bought by local authorities or voluntary housing associations, and families allowed to stay on and pay rent, should be obligatory on the banks.
Fr McVerry said he was pleased homeless people in the occupied Apollo building would have a roof over their heads for Christmas.
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