The Government has the capacity to build 50,000 social houses in the next two years but this would not be the solution to the homeless crisis, the housing minister claims.

Eoghan Murphy said money “isn’t a problem” when it comes to solving the housing and homeless crisis but has defended the rate of building by local authorities, saying: “If we wanted to go out and build 50,000 houses tomorrow, or over the course of let’s say two years, potentially we could do that, but we would be building them in the wrong places.

“We would be building them in large greenfield sites; we would be building large three-bedroom homes which is not the kind of stock we need when we look at the housing lists. When we look at the housing formation in this country, what we need to do is build thousands of new apartments, we have to build in the right places and we have to build communities.”

The Government has instead committed to providing 50,000 social housing solutions, through building, buying, leasing and other means by 2021 through its Rebuilding Ireland programme.

Mr Murphy said an additional €100m was provided last year to increase the number of social houses local authorities build.

However, with more than 85,000 people on the social housing waiting list, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said the Government needs to double the construction of homes and increase funding to allow this to happen.

“Local authorities can only build at the pace they are funded for,” he said. “They could potentially double the output but to do that they would have to double the investment in social housing.”

The minister said he will discuss with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe ahead of the budget how money already allocated for coming years should be spent.

“Earlier this week, I talked about greater protection for renters,” said Mr Murphy.

That’s going to require some additional resources for the Residential Tenancies Board next year. I will negotiate with the minister for finance to see how we spend that money.

Mr Murphy yesterday welcomed the latest figures which show that the number of rough sleepers fell by 40% in the past six months.

Figures published by the Department of Housing reveal that the number of people sleeping rough dropped from 184 at the end of 2017 to 110 now — the largest decrease on record.

Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the latest figures and highlighted the need to maintain the high-intensity response to people sleeping rough in the months ahead.

“The reduction is a clear result of a high intensity and assertive programme of engagement with people sleeping rough to encourage them into shelter and housing,” he said.

Sam McGuinness of Dublin Simon Community said the vast and co-ordinated response of agencies and people working across the sector to deliver extra capacity, especially during the extreme weather conditions, helped to get many people off the streets to safety.

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