Simon Coveney: Housing crisis on hold for holidays following "missed deadline"

Housing minister Simon Coveney has been severely criticised after he admitted he will miss his own deadline for launching the Government’s much-feted Action Plan for Housing, because of people “heading off” on summer holidays.

The plan to deal with the housing crisis was due to be published within 100 days but will be delayed, because the deadline falls during the August break, when the Dáil will be out of session.

Despite calling the housing shortage an “emergency” at the Oireachtas Housing Committee, Mr Coveney confirmed that it will be September before the plan will be launched.

He said that one of the problems around the 100-day target is that it lands right in the middle of August.

“For obvious reasons, that poses a problem because many people are not focused on work in the middle of August,” he said.

“I suspect that some of the people at this table will be but many others will not be.

“In reality, we will end up publishing our plan at the end of August and moving into September with a really proactive and aggressive work programme to implement it and ensure it works. That is the likely timing at this stage.”

Mr Coveney went on to say that it could be possible to launch the plan in July, but he said he feared nothing would happen as the political system and civil service would be on their summer holidays.

“It will lead to it being launched immediately after the 100 days are up and then selling it,” he said.

“We could launch it at the end of July before everybody heads off on holidays but that is not the kind of momentum we want the project to generate.”

Mr Coveney said that the housing crisis has escalated to the point where it is now an emergency in Dublin and Cork.

“I am firmly of the view that the position can only be described as an emergency situation in our key urban centres particularly in Dublin and Cork,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman, Barry Cowen, said that Mr Coveney’s comments were “extremely disappointing” given his own admission that the housing situation is an emergency.

Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman, Barry Cowen
Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman, Barry Cowen

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Cowen said: “He should be up all night bringing forward legislation to remove the road blocks that exist when it comes to building houses. If we could do it for the banks, we can do it for this.”

Mr Cowen said that the time has come for an Independent Housing Authority to be established to resolve the crisis.

He said such an authority would need to be properly resourced and would need to have the necessary powers to implement change quickly.

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West, Eoin Ó Broin, called on Mr Coveney to increase the supply of social and affordable housing.

“The social housing strategy that Minister Coveney has inherited from his predecessor will not address the underlying causes of the crisis,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West, Eoin Ó Broin
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West, Eoin Ó Broin

“The strategy depends on the private sector to deliver 80% of the social housing units over the next six years. This simply won’t work.”

Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Father Peter McVerry Trust, said every day of a delay means another family are put at risk of becoming homeless.

However, he said that he and the trust will be “keeping their powder dry” in terms of reaction until they see the detail of the plan.

“We want the plan to take in recommendations from the Housing Committee, so it is a delay of two weeks but we will wait to see the plan to make our judgement,” Mr Doyle told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Coveney has said that €46m will be spent on hotels for families who do not have a home in 2016, up from €25m last year.

The latest Focus Ireland Figures revealed that 366 families and 731 children have become homeless in Dublin in the first four months of 2016.

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