Non-profit housing associations have called for a “generation of investment” to solve the crisis of homelessness.
The Irish Council of Social Housing said the culture of nimbyism (not in my back yard) has to be challenged to crack the endless cycle of families ending up in hostels and hotels for emergency stays. The group said government, councils and voluntary organisations need to supply more than the promised 6,000 social homes a year.
And ICSH chief executive Donal McManus said social housing should get year-on-year investment rather than vote-winning funding at election time.
“Housing has been well and truly on the agenda — as a crisis issue — for the past two years, but once again we risk implementing knee-jerk solutions in an effort to solve hugely complex problems overnight,” he said.
Mr McManus said it is not possible to meet the immediate demand for social housing in the very short term.
About 100,000 households are on waiting lists for a house with more than 600 families in emergency accommodation — 203 were in homeless accommodation and 404 in hotels in Dublin.
The council called on the Government to adopt three initiatives to solve the crisis, including radical reform to deal with private landlords, welfare caps in line with real rent levels and six monthly reviews of the market to ensure fluctuations are addressed.
It also said tenants need to be given more rights over their tenure so they cannot be evicted for economic reasons.
The group made the calls at its biennial meeting in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where the idea of housing homeless families in high-quality, prefabricated units, which cost about €100,000 each, was debated.
It said the Government has a responsibility to make social housing an essential public service.
“The status of social housing was downgraded in the 1990s, when policymakers began promoting private home ownership over other forms of housing. The sector has failed to recover since,” Mr McManus said.
The council is the federation for non-profit housing associations and it represents about 270 groups managing more than 30,000 homes for families on a low income, older people, people with disabilities and homeless households.
It said only 9% of houses in Ireland are classed as social housing compared to a European average of 17%, while in the Netherlands it is 33%.
The group also said that a quarter to a third of Irish people find it difficult to achieve home ownership.
Mr McManus said: “These are not problems that can be solved overnight. It will take a generation of investment and long-term planning to tackle the challenges now faced by the housing sector.
“We need to build cultural acceptance that social housing is a permanent need. At the moment the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude prevails far too often when it comes to the issue of social housing.”
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