The Government has ruled out increasing rent supplements as a way of easing the homelessness crisis, as the body overseeing efforts to combat the problem in Dublin urged families to explore options other than waiting for social housing.
The crisis was uppermost in the Dail yesterday in the wake of the RTÉ programme, My Homeless Family, screened on Monday and depicting the reality of life in emergency accommodation as faced by families effectively priced out of the rental market.
The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said the problem of families becoming homeless had “stabilised” somewhat and its chief executive, Cathal Morgan, called on the public to get behind the construction and delivery of modular housing units.
There have long been calls for changes to rent supplements with many housing support bodies claiming it would help ease the squeeze on the rental market, and open it up to people who currently cannot afford rents, particularly in Dublin.
But yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to increase amounts being paid out for rent supplements. Despite appeals from TDs in the wake of the RTÉ programme, the Taoiseach defended the Coalition’s actions in tackling the housing crisis.
He said the supply of housing was the real problem and any supplement increase sanctioned by the Coalition would only “exacerbate the problem”.
Some 6,000 families had been helped to stay in their homes last year under a special housing assistance programme, he said, and 300 sites for housing were being worked on currently nationwide.
But Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and other TDS called on Mr Kenny to allocate half of the planned 20,000 units being built by Nama over the coming years to be declared as social housing.
“You allowed the crisis escalate and become an emergency,” claimed Mr Martin. He said up to three families a day were becoming homeless.
Mr Kenny rejected the suggestion and said that 17,000 social housing units would be built this year under the Coalition’s own long-term housing programme.
Earlier, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, said tackling the homelessness crisis would be a “social imperative” for the next government — a claim dismissed as “utterly worthless and infuriating” by People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett.
Cathal Morgan, the chief executive of the DRHE, said the use of commercial hotels as emergency accommodation was not sustainable, but added that at the moment the alternative was the streets.
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