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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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'If children are being left without a home, what are any of us doing here?'

TDs have been debating a Sinn Féín-proposed motion on homelessness.

Dessie Ellis
Dessie Ellis

SINN FÉÍN HAS called on the Government to redirect €1 billion from the Strategic Investment Fund and spend the money on tackling the housing crisis.

The party wants Fine Gael and Labour to introduce a legislative change that would allow the money to be used to build at least 6,600 additional social housing units over the next two years.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis noted that 89,872 households are currently on local authority housing waiting lists, while approximately 74,000 households are in receipt of Rent Supplement at a cost of €344 million.

He added that 2013 saw a decrease of 36% in the construction of new housing.

Ellis said his party is “under no illusion about the scale of this crisis … but we must take the first step”.

“To say the solutions are obvious is not to say they are easy. They are expensive and they require dedication and political will. They require that the Government decide that the social good and the public interest come first.

To condemn a child to deprivation or a family to homelessness is far more costly than to give them a home. That is at the heart of what we propose tonight, that a home is a right we cannot afford to deny to our people.

During the deabte, Ellis also proposed that rent rates should be tied to the Consumer Price Index and the quality of the accommodation.

Sinn Féin’s Michael Colreavy said that the Sate has “abdicated responsibility” for renters leaving them “at the whim of the market”, adding: “That’s shameful.”

‘Significant pressure’

Responding to the motion, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said that ending long-term homelessness by 2016 was “a matter of highest priority for Government”.

He admitted that there is “significant pressure on homelessness services at present”.

Recent figures show that there are 127 people sleeping rough in the Dublin region, while there are approximately 150 families residing in hotel accommodation in the capital.

homeless alan kelly Alan Kelly Source: Oireachtas TV

However, Kelly pointed out that more than 6,000 social housing units would be provided in 2014 through leasing and existing capital programmes.

This figure includes:
  • 275 new units for people with special housing needs;
  • up to 350 new transfers under the Mortgage to Rent Scheme;
  • approximately 850 new units through leasing arrangements;
  • a further 2,500 new transfers under the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Kelly said the Government accepts the fact that “the delivery of significant new build is required”.

He said a strategy on increasing public housing would be “finalised over the coming weeks with further consultation as required”.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen was not impressed by this, saying: “Give me a break.” He added that Kelly has been in government for three years but thinks he can “spend the next 18 months producing a plan” as he’s “only in the department three months”.

NAMA

Colreavy said that it is “scandalous to see so many empty housing units in the country and at the same time see people lying on the streets”.

Kelly said that NAMA has made available “virtually all of their housing stock to local authorities for social housing – not all of it is suitable”.

Colreavy noted that, as of June 2014, 15 local authorities had delivered “no NAMA homes whatsoever”.

homeless colreavy Source: Oireachtas TV

He said that the current situation had “almost gone beyond … a situation we can claw back”, but added: “We’re not here to score political  points, we’re here to help.”

The right to a home is a basic human right and it’s a right which must be protectd by the State.

“If children are starving and being left without a home, what am I doing here? What are any of us doing here?,” he concluded.

The Fianna Fáil TDs present supported the motion.

Related: The government still thinks it can end long term homelessness by 2016

Read: Joan Burton heckled at trade union meeting on homelessness

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Órla Ryan

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