Bank loans ‘best’ for homeless charities

Two of the country’s leading homeless organisations have revealed it is cheaper for them to borrow from commercial banks than to apply for loans through the Government’s Housing Finance Agency.

Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust hit back yesterday at Labour TD Joanna Tuffy who claimed the organisations were not ‘stepping up to the mark’ to build social housing.

The Dublin Mid-West TD asserted up to €500 million in funding for social housing made available by the Housing Finance Agency was left unclaimed.

“Ms Tuffy claims that Focus Ireland has not ‘drawn down’ millions of euro from the Housing Finance Agency to help provide homes. She seems to fail to understand that the money she is talking about is actually loans,” said Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen.

“The sad truth is that while Focus Ireland is in the process of borrowing millions of euro to build new homes, it is incredibly cheaper for us to borrow it from commercial banks than from the Government’s HFA fund — even in the middle of a housing crisis,” he said.

The charity said it plans to provide more than 100 homes this year nationwide as well as working with the four Dublin local authorities to provide emergency accommodation for over 550 families every night in the county in partnership with the Peter McVerry Trust.

“We are out on the street every day helping the families and individuals who have no shelter,” Mr Allen said.

“They call this the ‘silly season’ but it rarely gets sillier than this. Tuffy’s remarks can only be seen as a way of distracting attention from the Government’s failure to take the urgent and effective action we have been calling for,” the charity said.

Mr Allen’s comments were echoed by Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, who said TDs should be focusing their energies on targeting the homeless crisis rather than the charities.

“The fact of the matter is that Peter McVerry Trust can secure funding cheaper and quicker through high street banks, and we have done that twice this year, to finance acquisition of properties. We also fundraise to develop capital projects and fund property acquisitions. It would not make any financial sense to take out a loan that takes longer to draw down and which is more expensive to finance.”

Mr Doyle said: “We are bitterly disappointed, but not surprised by the decision by this Labour TD to attack homeless charities rather than tackle the homeless crisis. Deputy Tuffy has said we need to step up to the plate but Peter McVerry Trust is already the fastest growing social housing provider in Ireland. We have stepped up to the plate in social housing just like we step up to the plate on the crisis in homelessness.”

Mr Doyle said the trust would make a formal application in the coming months to the HFA. “Peter McVerry Trust already informed the Housing Finance Agency before the summer that an application from the charity is in the pipeline. However, this is a lengthy and complex process that requires us to restructure the charity and its finances,” he said.


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