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Report is first step, action must follow
The Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, launched by Minister Simon Coveney, provides a comprehensive blueprint for tackling the current acute housing crisis. As the report acknowledges, the volume of families and children affected by the crisis is unprecedented, and recommended actions are thorough and thoughtful.
Barnardos was encouraged to see the sense of urgency has been captured as immediate interventions are required — every week the number of people affected by the housing crisis increases, and it is heartbreaking to see the escalating number of children’s lives blighted by the crisis.
Of particular note are targets including aiming to end use of hotels as emergency accommodation for families by summer 2017; introduction of free transport for families in emergency accommodation — this is something which has come up time and again for children and families with whom Barnardos work — and the prioritisation of children in homeless accommodation within the School Completion Programme, for services such as breakfast and homework clubs. It would be great to see this extended to children living in unstable, overcrowded, and substandard accommodation and who are at risk of homelessness too.
While the report contains a slew of ambitious and positive measures, the most difficult part is always the next phase — implementation. While the housing and homelessness crisis has loomed large over the past couple of years, the number of children and families homeless or living in substandard housing has only increased. We must be mindful that until this report becomes a reality, the dire circumstances of children living through the housing crisis will not change.
Plan is death knell for investors
The Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness issued by the Government is disappointing. Yet again we have a load of hot air presented to satisfy the critics. It does nothing to protect the existing supply of private rental accommodation. The Government and Minister Coveney need to stop the exodus of property owners from the sector, over 41,000 property owners left the private rental sector in the three years from 2012-15 with many more lining up to exit as soon as the market improves. To be told by this report that you must sell your property with tenants in situ is, to say the least, the death knell for the Investor, small or large.
The penal tax treatment of the sector was not addressed and cost will increase with increased standards. Providing rental accommodation needs to be valued by the State and treated as a business like every other business. Supply is the issue and this report discourages investment in the private rental sector.
As with the previous report by Minister Kelly in November 2014, it is doomsday for investors.
A strong step forward
The Department of the Environment has released figures showing that, from June 20-26, there were 4152 adults, 1,078 families, and 2,206 children residing in emergency homeless accommodation across Ireland. The problem is most pronounced within the Dublin region, where there were 2,871 adults, 939 families, and 1894 children who were homeless. These are the highest figures since records began. Depaul calls for the swift and robust implementation of the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to halt the flow of people into homelessness and improve pathways out of homelessness.
It is devastating to see that the number of people who are homeless in Ireland has risen yet again. The scale of homelessness in Ireland is truly unprecedented, with the number of children in emergency accommodation having risen by 67% since June of last year, and the number of adults in emergency accommodation having risen by 27% since June 2015.
It is our hope that the suite of measures contained with the Rebuilding Ireland — Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness will have both an immediate and long-term impact on the number of individuals and families who are homeless in Ireland. By activating the provision of social and affordable homes, delivering an additional 1,500 rapid-build housing units, and bringing vacant properties back into use; the ambitious plan, if implemented in full, will significantly increase the availability of move-on options for people experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, by increasing funding for addiction and mental health services, the plan will support people who are homeless with complex needs to live independently.
Depaul is pleased to see that there is a robust governance oversight component of the plan, and we look forward to monitoring its application as a sector. This action plan is a strong step forward in addressing rising homelessness figures, and we hope to see a downward trend in these figures going forward.
Ms. Kerry Anthony
Crises put on hold for holidays
We all recall the election of the 32nd Dail on February 26. The electorate turned out in their thousands. Then followed a terrible silence that went on and on, and still no government in place. On the 70th day after many, many pints of beer, and cups of tea and coffee, a grey smoke cloud arose over the pubs and clubs and eateries of Ireland. The secret of the great delay was about to be revealed. The parties and Independents were in their various conclaves devising a ‘brand new form of politics’.
On May 6, the masterpiece emerged — a minority Fine Gael Government led by Enda Kenny, dependent on a close opposition alliance with Micheál Martin’s Soldier’s of Destiny lobby. And what a lamentable achievement they’ve had in the interval since. Granted there was a debate on housing, some work on legislation to suspend water charges, extending paternity law entitlements and a mini Criminal Assets Bureau put in place.
There was little more progress, other than bickering among Independents and sly attempts by Coveney and Varadkar to shunt Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In the midst of all this, Cameron’s Brexit crashed, creating the biggest Irish, UK, and UN crisis since joining the EEC in 1972.
How did our Government meet the challenge? They lackadaisically took a brisk look, considered some alliance with Northern Ireland, and suggested a few agreements necessary with Britain and UN, before a tidying-up some odds and ends. The Taoiseach then bid the deputies and senators adieu. “Our holidays are due now — we’ll meet again in nine weeks’ time, enjoy yourselves.” Like a flock of crows leaving the local rookery, they fled Government Buildings for destinations unknown.
We all had unforeseen situations pop up in our lifetimes causing us to forsake our, usually, two weeks’ holiday. Not so with our Government boys — not even four weeks of them! Who’s fooling whom? What succours we are!
A united Ireland comes with a cost
With Enda Kenny’s recent statement that Brexit could lead to a united Ireland, the question must be asked is this realistic in the present economic state of the Republic? The cost would be devastating to our economy.
Britain supports Northern Ireland to the tune of many billions a year. It is a fact that one in three employed people in the North are in the civil service in one form or another. We in the Republic could not afford this. Northern Ireland by itself is not economically sustainably as a ‘country’. So, why not be realistic and eliminate this pipe dream.
Remember the unification of Germany nearly bankrupted West Germany. We in the Republic, thanks to a handful of greedy bankers and subservient political leaders, will be in dept for many generations to come. Why add more austerity measures to the already over-taxed populace?
Let me be frank
I thought it was funny that when the two most important women in the world, Theresa May and Angela Merkel, met all they wanted to be was Frank’.
Is €6bn just going to be dreamed up?
Well isn’t that magnificent? This government is going to ‘find’ another €6bn for extra housing. A boost to the construction industry, they say. Point 1 — in a country living under a sane government (not FF or FG), the construction industry would simply build houses which the people that needed them could afford. It’s called a marketplace. Point 2 — where does this €6bn suddenly appear from? Could it be that they will cut down on the outrageous expenses of the existing power structure or, far more likely, that they will search desperately to find another few ways to extort money from the long-suffering taxpayers in the ever-smaller free market.
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