Helping the homeless — or saving developers?

I WELCOME Junior Minister Michael Finneran’s new-found, if somewhat belated, interest in the plight of the homeless.

I can only assume his “initiative” to provide houses for this sector was related to his desire to retain his job on the fringes of cabinet.

This is not a new idea coming from my local TD; it is simply a new twist on a failed series of policies.

In recent months Minister Finneran has taken two initiatives to bail out developers in rural areas who are stuck with unsaleable housing stock.

He used our money to set up a failed mortgage- style operation to provide subprime loans for buyers of worthless houses, and he provided an additional e20m of our money to allow local authorities to bail out these failed developers with leasing deals that would enable them to ride out the recession with secure state-backed tenants. These proposals failed to cut any ice with the electorate, so now he wants to give them a twist and dress them up as an initiative to help the homeless.

The reality is very different from the statements that come from Minister Finneran’s office. He intends to pay for this new bailout of his developer buddies by taking money from the emergency housing funds that are so essential in the day-to-day running of programmes combating homelessness, in a sector that is already grossly under funded and that relies on a high proportion of voluntary and unpaid effort to care for the most vulnerable in society. This cynical ploy by the Housing Minister will be seen for what it is — an attempt to dress up blatant cronyism as something good and noble.

The empty housing stock that lies on the balance sheets of our banks will be available at real fire-sale values in a few months.

Given that the losses on these projects will be picked up by the taxpayer in any case, the minister should wait until then and requisition these houses for the benefit of the homeless and the poor. He should not lease them at book value now just to get developers off the hook, and he certainly should not target emergency housing funds just to bail out his friends in the Ballybrit camping club.

John Mulligan



Co Roscommon

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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