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Leo Varadkar says he believes homeless figures will fall

There were 12,259 people in emergency accommodation last month.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he believes the homeless numbers will decrease.

The latest homeless figures published on Friday by the Housing Department showed there were 12,259 people in emergency accommodation last month.

Focus Ireland has said the increase in the number of homeless children to 3,594 is particularly concerning. 

Raising the issue during Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the case a nurse, called Lauren, who spoke on RTÉ’s Drivetime last week. She has been forced to live in her car because she can’t find anywhere she can afford to rent.

“She’s had to send her two children to live with relatives because she can’t find a home. Can you imagine,” said McDonald.

The Sinn Féin leader asked the Taoiseach where the level of urgency was and what is being done to provide immediate solutions. 

Varadkar said the Government is working to first prevent people from entering into homelessness, while also working to get people out of emergency accommodation and into a permanent home as soon as possible. 

He added that social housing delivery is increasing and local authorities are engaging with landlords looking to sell up, and purchasing the property under the tenant-in-situ scheme. 

“It is not good enough particularly when you are dealing with the lives of young children… what will you do now to change direction,” asked McDonald. 

Varadkar said there is a “long way to go before we make up for the deficit that builds up over the years”, but he told the Dáil he believes the homeless numbers will decrease.

“I believe they will fall,” he said. 

People Before Profit Richard Boyd Barrett said he believes the homeless figures will only escalate in the coming months. 

He called for the eviction ban to be reinstated. He said the tenant-in-situ scheme is not working, telling the Dáil that landlords are ignoring councils who are looking to buy up homes. 

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns hit out against the Taoiseach for stating that home ownership is one of his top priorities. 

“We have more of a take from the census. The rate of homeownership fell from nearly 70% in 2016 to just 66% last year,” she said.

People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are locked out of home ownership, said Cairns, who pointed out that the average age of young people moving out of their parents home is now 28 .

“I don’t honestly know who you think you’re kidding. But I can tell you that people have grown tired of that kind of spin,” she said. 

Cairns said Varadkar said he has been in office for 12 years .

“What point do you think you take some responsibility for the fact that your approach isn’t working?” she asked. 

Defending the Government, Varadkar said house prices have been falling for several months now. In Dublin, they’ve fallen for nearly six months in a row, he pointed out.

There are nearly 400 people in Ireland buying their first home every week, said the Taoiseach.

“You can’t deny that reality. It’s a fact,” he told Cairns, hitting out against her party’s opposition to Government initiatives to the Help-to-Buy Scheme.  

“I accept the country has a lot of problems”, Varadkar later told the Dáil, but added that he didn’t accept the premise being presented by some politicians that the country is doing badly.  

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