Tánaiste under fire in Dáil over homeless crisis

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has had to deny that the Government is “ideologically blind” and “simply unwilling” to address the escalating housing and homeless crisis.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has had to deny that the Government is “ideologically blind” and “simply unwilling” to address the escalating housing and homeless crisis.

There were clashes and heckling in the Dáil when Mr Coveney claimed that there are “encouraging trends” in the supply and construction of new homes.

With close to 10,000 people, including 4,000 children, currently living in emergency accommodation, Independent TD Mattie McGrath raised the severe lack of supply of houses and hit out at a lack of action by the Government.

“Despite report after report, promise after promise, and minister after minister with responsibility for housing, the emergency remains and families up and down the country continue to suffer in an awful way,” said Mr McGrath.

He told the Dáil there is an “apparent paralysis that exists” when it comes to addressing an already existing supply of homes that could be made available across the country.

Citing his own constituency of Tipperary, Mr McGrath said that, in 2011, there were 4,817 vacant homes in the county, which accounted for 12.5% of the total stock.

He said the latest CSO statistics reveal this figure has gone down to 11.9%, which he described as “minuscule”.

“It is less than a 1% drop in over five years,” said Mr McGrath.

If we continue at that rate it will be 2073 before the vacancy rate in Tipperary dropped to less than 1%. That demonstrates that no Government policy has worked to any effective degree in terms of putting vacant dwellings back into the housing market.

Citing, the work of Irish Examiner journalists, Mr McGrath said it is now “time to accept that on this issue the Government is ideologically blind and simply unwilling to take the kind of action that is required”.

However, Mr Coveney said he was “glad” to update the Dáil on “encouraging” signs, including a general upward trend across all housing construction activity in the past 12 months.

Simon Coveney

The Tánaiste said more than 18,000 new homes were made available for use last year, with 2,500 of these coming from vacant homes that brought back into use.

“In planning permissions, 24,531 new homes were granted permission in the 12 months up to March 2018,” he said. “That is up almost 40% on the previous 12 months. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, planning permissions were granted for 8,500 homes, an increase of more than 81% overall.”

Mr Coveney, a former housing minister, admitted progress is not fast enough for many people who wish to buy a home or are on the social housing list. However, he insisted “the plan is working” and house construction is accelerating.

Responding, Mr McGrath asked: “What planet is the Tánaiste on?

I cannot see the houses. I can see the homeless, certainly. The time for excuses is over and the blame lies squarely on the Government’s shoulders, without going back to Fianna Fáil. We can go back to the last century if we want to.

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