The new Minister for Housing has said he “is not afraid of being radical” in his efforts to tackle the housing crisis and that he wants the homeless moved away from hotel and B&B accommodation as soon as possible.
Simon Coveney said €46m was spent last year on hotels for homeless families in Dublin and that “was not right”.
Mr Coveney described the lack of housing as a “national emergency” and said since his appointment five days ago, he had already met with Nama, the Peter McVerry Trust and was due to meet with the Simon Community, Focus Ireland and the CEOs of the local authorities in the coming days.
He said he will talk to the heads of the city and county councils today about what they need to ensure that accelerated social housing building can start as soon as possible. He said he is open to using emergency powers to “fast track the planning process”.
Under his watch, he told RTÉ Radio that Ireland will witness the “biggest social housing build that Ireland has ever seen”.
By the end of next year, he expects another 18,000 houses “including a couple of thousand new builds” to become available through HAP, RAS and leasing schemes.
The former Agriculture Minister described how he hopes to solve the housing crisis through building a good working partnership between local authorities, his eepartment and the private sector. He would also be examining the “use of technology to build houses faster than we would have in the past”.
His long-term hope is social housing provision will increase to 25,000 a year and that house building would be “steady and sustainable”.
The country, he said, was reeling from a “significant deficit” in housing supply over the past 10 years and that it would take 5-10 years before house building returns to a normal level.
On rent control, he said he didn’t have a “closed mind” to rent control but was “cautious” about it. He would rather see “incentives to build a lot of houses quickly”.
He said that Nama has a “big role to play in terms of builders and developers” and that they have the “capability to impact significantly on housing provision”.
He said it was responsible for loan books in prime sites in Dublin and Cork such as Cork’s Docklands and he’d like to find a way of building on these lands as planning permission was in place on some of these sites.
He also warned people will not get away without paying water charges.
Mr Coveney, who is now also in charge of water, said that people have an obligation to pay their bills until the end of June.
He also said Junior Minister Finian McGrath should pay his water bill.