Housing policy will free up homes in the ‘most timely way’

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe has dismissed claims that new housing waiting list plans will see the most desperate people given the worst accommodation.

His comments came after it emerged people can jump the queue if they apply for unpopular areas.

Mr Donohoe defended the new policy after it was put forward by Housing Minister and party colleague Simon Coveney. He said that, despite an initial impression that the housing plan risks forcing desperate people to take up sub-standard homes, the policy is instead designed to free up accommodation for those in need in “the most timely” way.

“That’s not the objective of any changes that are being made,” he said. “What we need to have happen here is social housing lists that are accurate, that are up to date that allow us to make homes that are available. All is this is happening against the context of the Government putting together a new housing action plan.

“We want to make sure that social housing is going to people who need it and that it can be made available on the most timely basis and that’s that whole purpose of these changes that are being made.”

Mr Donohoe’s comments came after it emerged Mr Coveney is planning to replace the existing housing waiting list system with a new policy allowing applicants to apply for homes and effectively jump the queue if they take up accommodation in unpopular areas.

The measure, which is contained in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, aims to significantly reduce the number of homes rejected by people who are next in line on local authority waiting lists.

Under the plan, applicants will be able to apply for homes advertised by local authorities instead of waiting to be offered accommodation.

Last year, almost 2,000 homes were turned down by people on the housing waiting list, with Cork County Council and Waterford County Council the worst-hit areas at 49% and 46% rejections respectively.

However, under piloted versions of the new scheme in Cork City Council and South Dublin County Council’s Tallaght and Clondalkin areas, rejection rates fell from 40% to 10% and 50% to 5% respectively.

A Department of Housing spokesperson said Government is not moving away from eligibility and means testing and that “the person highest on the waiting list if they apply for an advertised home will be successful subject to usual checks”.

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