Fr McVerry: €312m for social housing ‘not enough’

Plan to build 1,700 homes by 2017 ‘less than 2% of a housing waiting list of over 100,000 households’

The Government is to give local authorities €312 million to construct social housing in 100 separate projects with the aim of building 1,700 homes by 2017.

The plan was unveiled yesterday by Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Minister of State for Housing Paudie Coffey.

However, the funding announcement was immediately described as ‘insignificant’ by homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry.

It was also criticised by Richard Boyd Barrett TD, for the People Before Profit Alliance who said that the 1,700 new council houses will not even keep pace with the number of new housing applicants joining housing lists this year.

RELATED: Social housing programme to get €300m boost for 1,700 homes

The move is part of the Government’s €4bn social housing strategy to deliver 35,000 housing units out to 2020 and to reduce the housing waiting lists by 25% nationally by 2017.

“This is the first major investment in local authority housing for many years,” Mr Kelly said. “It represents a good start but with much more needing to be done.”

Mr Coffey said: “These 100 projects across the country are shovel-ready and will deliver hundreds of much-needed homes in every county.

“The social housing strategy is a key component of the Construction 2020 Strategy and today’s announcement is the first phase of new direct build social housing provision to be delivered by local authorities across the country this year.This is just one of the ways that we will be delivering social housing units and shows this government’s commitment in addressing the current housing need.”

However, homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has described today’s funding announcement for local authorities to build social housing, as “insignificant”.

Speaking to Keelin Shanley on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, Fr McVerry said every home that is provided is welcome but the number of houses to be built fell far short of what was required.

“If I were the minister I’d be embarrassed at making this announcement to be honest,” he said, adding that the 1,700 units over three years amounts to less than 600 units a year.

“Given a housing waiting list of over 100,000 households, we’re talking of providing accommodation for less than 2% of that waiting list.”

RELATED: Govt unveils €312m social housing plan

Fianna Fáil also raised concerns that the latest project is just a rehash of plans launched in November, which have still not resulted in a single new home.

The party’s environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, warned Mr Kelly against yet another PR stunt that makes absolutely no difference to the 90,000 families in need of a home.

“The 90,000 families on social housing waiting lists across the country have heard all these promises before from Minister Kelly. But despite launches, re-launches and a litany of promises from the minister, not one new home has yet been built. Not a single dent has been made in the housing crisis that has been left to escalate completely and utterly out of control,” Deputy Cowen said.

“The Government has been systematically cutting the money available for social housing over the last four years. Grant money provided to councils for social housing units was slashed from almost €115m in 2012 to just over €80m last year.”

Speaking at the announcement in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Mr Kelly also addressed the problem of mortgage arrears and house repossessions and warned that the banking sector will have to be “dealt with” in a new way.

RELATED: €312m allocated for new social housing plan

Mr Kelly said a plan to deal with repossessions and people facing mortgage difficulties will be brought to government in the coming weeks.

“While I’m not going to speak about information that will be brought through in cabinet, I will say the following: that we need to start using levers on banks,” the minister told reporters.

“Banks to date have not dealt with this issue in a way that’s satisfactory to me or my government colleagues and really we need to deal with the banking sector in a way that it hasn’t been dealt with before.”

He said he and his government colleagues will be coming up with measures to ensure that banks have to look more favourably upon people in difficulties.

“I think it’s the biggest issue facing this Government at the moment.”


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