Taoiseach rules out rural relocation scheme for homeless

The Taoiseach has ruled out a rural relocation scheme as a solution to the housing and homeless crises.

Leo Varadkar has said that moving homeless people from cities and urban areas to vacant houses in rural Ireland will not work as many of those families and individuals would simply move back.

With almost 10,000 people including 4,000 children in emergency accommodation, the Government believes rapidly increasing the level of home construction is the only way to solve the problem.

In Westport, Co Mayo, yesterday, Mr Varadkar said that there were not as many vacant properties in rural areas as people believe, but urged local authorities to up the number of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) they make to bring as many units back into use as possible.

“There may not be as many vacant homes as people think, when local authorities actually go out to check up on vacant homes sometimes they are vacant for a reason, often it’s because somebody is in a nursing home, somebody has passed away and the home is in probate or sometimes the house is for sale.

“But there are some; local authorities have CPO powers to buy those homes and Louth [county council] in particular has done that, we would encourage more local authorities to use their Compulsory Purchase Order powers to buy homes that are vacant.”

While the Taoiseach said he believes there “is a place” for some rural relocation this should only be in cases where people want to move out of urban areas.  

“We have found, in the past, in a lot of occasions it hasn’t worked out and a lot of people, as many as 50% in some cases, returned to the city,” he said.

“I don’t think it is the solution to the housing crisis the solution to the housing crisis is building lots of new homes where they are needed most and particularly more apartments.”

Mr Varadkar said the rate of house building must increase but some progress is starting to be made.

“If you look at the numbers produced by the CSO, which nobody disputes, 14,000 new homes were built last year and that was 50% more than the year before and 75% more than the year before that, so we are starting from a very low base.

“We have set the target now to build 20,000 new homes this year, 25,000 the year after. We are in catch-up mode and we are beginning to catch up.”

Fianna Fáil has already identified the housing and homeless crisis as a key area where the Government has failed and will be focusing on this in upcoming budget talks as well as any renegotiation of the confidence and supply agreement.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Micheál Martin said: “there may be lots of photos of Cabinet members in high visibility jackets, but the 12 months since the Taoiseach took up office has actually seen an escalation in homelessness”.

“Overall, homelessness is up by nearly a quarter and there are a thousand more children homeless today than 12 months ago. And don’t forget that these are the figures after they have been massaged downwards.”

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