Plans to increase the number of social houses being built “fall far short” of what is required to address the escalating crisis, a key homeless charity has claimed.
An extra 800 social houses will be built next year and 200 additional emergency beds made available by December, the housing minister has promised. Eoghan Murphy also announced €10m in additional ring-fenced funding for family hubs as demand for temporary accommodation rises.
There are now more than 8,000 people living in emergency accommodation — including 3,000 children. Meanwhile the number of people on the social housing list stands at over 90,000.
After summoning the 31 local authority chiefs executive to an emergency summit in Dublin yesterday, Mr Murphy said he was redirecting money into building homes, rather than having councils rely on the private sector to provide housing.
“All I got back from the local authorities today in terms of social housing and building was the desire to do more,” he said. “That’s why I am refocusing this money that I have announced today away from acquisition, which is not working, into direct building.
“The main part of the solution is building new homes.”
Addressing the homeless crisis is a priority for the Government, said Mr Murphy, and “nothing will be lacking in terms of ambition, in terms of funding”.
Focus Ireland said the meeting had produced some positive proposals, but had failed to live up to the expectations created by the decision to bill it as a summit.
Focus Ireland director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said the proposals announced were “dominated by managing the emergency rather than tackling the problem”.
Mr Allen said the plans failed to address areas that the organisation had identified as crucial, including a vacant homes tax, legislative action to stop evictions from buy-to-let properties, and increases in housing assistance payments to match rent hikes.
Mr Murphy said many initiatives were being worked on ahead of the budget.
Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the provision of extra emergency beds before Christmas but added: “Clearly the latest homeless figures point to the fact that more needs to be done and done quickly. If we are to be successful, a strong collaboration and partnership across Government departments is needed to ensure a full Cabinet-level response.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin branded the Government’s housing response a “national scandal”.
“Since 2014, it has been clear that the country is experiencing an unprecedented housing emergency,” he said.
“Enormous effort has been invested in various PR initiatives and ‘action plans’, while citizens listen to ministers explain how complicated the problem is. There is no doubt that this is a complex issue, but at its core the solution is very simple. We need to build significantly more houses and apartments, and quickly.”
However, Mr Murphy said the 800 extra homes to be built in 2018, on top of the 3,000 already promised, represents a “significant increase”.
Among the other actions announced is the establishment of a homeless inter-agency group to deliver services in a joined-up way.
This will be chaired by a former secretary general who will co-ordinate with the Departments of Health and Children along with the HSE and Tusla to increase supports in emergency accommodation and services and supports for homeless families and children.
Health Minister Simon Harris will provide €1.5m this year for homeless health supports and services.
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