Plans to build 150 modular houses in the Dublin area have been agreed by the Cabinet after the Government was accused of not doing enough to tackle the homeless crisis.
The homes will be the first of 500 to be created as more than 700 families, including 1,500 children languish in emergency B&B and hotel accommodation.
The homes cost between €50,000 to €100,000 to create, and the first 150 are to be habitable by the New Year.
The move came as Socialist TD Joe Higgins accused Mr Kenny of not living in the real world regarding homelessness and suggested “the Taoiseach must have been off looking for water on Mars for the last four years,”.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald accused the Taoiseach of not living-up to his words regarding helping the homeless as she recalled the death of rough sleeper Alan Murphy close to the Dáil last weekend.
Ms McDonald said little had changed since the death of rough sleeper Jonathan Corrie near the Leinster House gates last December.
“Since Jonathan Corrie’s death, the number of families presenting as homeless has increased. The number of children sleeping in emergency accommodation every night has increased. Rents have continued to spiral upwards. Evictions are becoming ever more frequent. More and more families are turning to the state for help.
“But instead of being offered shelter we have the appalling situation of scores of families being turned away every night, unable to source even emergency accommodation. Councils meanwhile, desperately wait for the funds to build the homes the families need. Charities desperately wait for the funds to provide much-needed accommodation.
“You cut social housing funding in your first years in office. You have not released the funding for local authorities to build the homes despite some shovel-ready projects ready to go since 2013,” she said.
Mr Kenny said the Government was committed to the medium-term eradication of homelessness which would only come with the building of more social housing. “Believe me, it is not a shortage of money that has caused the exacerbation here. It is not fit to have children and families in bed and breakfast accommodation or to have children homeless or staying in hotel rooms,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.
Mr Kenny defended the use of modular prefabs, saying that they would be safe and warm for families.
“They are in different shapes and forms. They are very acceptable and are guaranteed for insulation, warmth and comfort. They are also for families, so they are not in bed and breakfast accommodation or hotel rooms. No matter what happens, however, we cannot deal with the situation effectively until one starts to put blocks and concrete on the ground,” Mr Kenny said.
The use of modular homes has been criticised by Renua leader Lucinda Creighton who said she fears they will become permanent, not emergency accommodation, and lead to the creation of “ghettos and slums”.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly says he does not expect new legislation will be needed to ensure the pre-fabs get planning permission, but he is prepared to bring-in such measures if needed.
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