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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020
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The housing summit has ended - here's what the minister has announced

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was meeting with the heads of the 31 local authorities.

Updated 9.10pm

A HOUSING SUMMIT chaired by minister Eoghan Murphy has concluded at the Custom House in Dublin this evening.

The Housing Minister was meeting with the heads of the 31 local authorities of Ireland.

It was billed by Murphy as an opportunity “to explore new options and to see how we can better join up our response across local authorities but also across health and social care supports” in order to tackle the housing crisis.

It was announced at a press conference this evening that, amongst other measures, a “homeless inter-agency group” is to be established immediately “to deliver homeless services in a coherent and joined-up way between the relevant departments and agencies”.

The new group will be chaired by a former department secretary general.

A further €10 million in funding for more family hubs is also being ring-fenced, as demand arises from local authorities, to be drawn down this year, according to a statement from Murphy this evening. This is in addition to funding announcements for family hubs in June.

Family hubs – which have shared kitchen and common areas – were introduced as an alternative to housing homeless families in hotels and B&Bs.

200 additional emergency beds for individuals will be in place in Dublin by December this year, according to the minister this evening.

The beds announced this evening had already been flagged by the housing department. Over 200 beds were also added to the system in 2016 “and a similar amount is currently in progress,” yesterday’s statement said.

A new mortgage to rent scheme is also on the way and will be announced in the coming weeks, according to Murphy.

He told reporters: “Sometimes no matter what we do, it won’t be enough… People will ask if this is enough.

It is not enough. More will come.

Social housing 

The minister also announced a change to social housing policy – the budget is being redirected away from acquisitions “and into direct build programmes for local authorities and housing bodies”.

As a result, according to this evening’s statement, the current target for 2018 of around 3,000 newly built homes will increase by almost 30% to 3,800.

“That’s 800 new social housing homes to be built next year,” the statement says.

When asked about this number, Murphy said that the government was starting “from a really low base”, and that was doing everything it could to drive that figure up.

As a result of homes delivered from private sites and old social housing stock that is being renovated, it’s planned around 5,000 new social housing homes will be delivered in 2018.

In total 8,160 people, including dependents, were recorded as homeless in figures for July released yesterday.

A total of 1,429 families were recorded as homeless in one week in July – an increase of 299 compared to the same week last year.

In a statement, Focus Ireland said that a number of positive commitments had been made by Murphy but said that proposals focussed on “managing the emergency rather than tackling the problem”.

Its director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said: “It would be unfair to judge the new Minister’s approach to this challenging and almost overwhelming problem on the basis of this one event.

We will continue to work with the Minister and the Department with a view to ensuring that the full review of Rebuilding Ireland, when it is completed, will more fully reflect the range and extent of measures which are essential.

Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said that he had met with Minister Murphy yesterday and emphasised the need to scale up public housing provision by local authorities.

He welcomed the setting up of an inter-agency group, and said resources from the Department of Health would be of great benefit.

Doyle said: “These resources are badly needed as many people who are experiencing homelessness lack the mental health and addiction supports they require and deserve.

We note that the target of 5,000 social housing units for 2018 is a significant increase. However, we would call for a high proportion of this incoming stock to be rapid build, to ensure that we get as many turn-key units in place as soon as possible.

Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless, said some of the measures outlined were welcome, but that there was a lack of urgency in addressing the issue of vacant properties that could be used for housing.

He said: “I also welcome the Minister’s Housing Plan but I believe that it falls a long way short of the required number of social housing builds needed to tackle this crisis. An additional 800 units isn’t what is required to really address the current demand for social housing.”

Political parties, however, said the government’s housing plans do not go far enough.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said that it was clear that Murphy “has not grasped the gravity of the homeless crisis”.

He said that today’s summit was “nothing more than a PR exercise”.

“Minister Murphy’s statement will give little comfort to the 8,000 adults and children who will tonight sleep another night in emergency accommodation,” Ó Broin said.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the government’s plans “lacked ambition”.

She said: “Today’s new target for the delivery of 20,000 social housing homes by 2021, while it is an improvement on previous targets, is clearly not going to be enough to resolve the housing and homelessness epidemic that we are facing.

The measures announced this afternoon are lacking in ambition and vision and it’s hard to see much new and radical thinking in what is proposed.

With reporting from Daragh Brophy

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Sean Murray

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