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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Government of Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured alongside Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and Táiniste Micheál Martin ahead of today's housing policy progress update.
Housing Crisis

Taoiseach stresses 'progress' on housing as he defends lifting of eviction ban

The government has today announced a €150mn fund to tackle long-term property vacancy and dereliction which it says will help expand housing supply.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has stressed the government’s “progress” on tackling the housing crisis as he defends the lifting of the eviction ban and says that the current homelessness figures represent a “much more complicated picture” than people make out.

Varadkar provided an update on the government’s Housing for All policy this afternoon alongside Táiniste Micheál Martin, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.

Speaking at the press conference the Taoiseach refused to give a target figure for the reduction in homelessness and said this was because of its complex nature.

“There are so many different factors at play,” the Taoiseach said.

“For example, a major cause of homelessness in Ireland is family breakdown, where the family splits up and needs two houses and not one. Nobody can predict the number of families that will break down next month or the month after.”

Varadkar also noted the “increasing number of arrivals of non-Irish citizens”, and said no one can predict the number of people who are not Irish citizens who may arrive here and seek emergency accommodation.

“What we have seen is the slow down in the rate of increase [of homelessness] in the last couple of months,” Varadkar said.

“The eviction ban, when it was in place, didn’t cause homelessness to fall but it did cause it to rise more slowly for a period of time. But it hasn’t taken off since then in the way that some people have predicted,” he added.

Dereliction fund

The government announced today a €150mn fund to tackle long-term property vacancy and dereliction which it says will help expand housing supply.

The fund will be available to local authorities under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund.

The government has said that in addition to 100% grant aid to fund the acquisition of suitable properties, local authorities will also be funded 20% of their allocation in advance to “make sure they are well resourced to tackle this issue”.

Adding to the Taoiseach’s comments, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said: “We’ve always said that we need to use every single tool in our armoury to get to grips with the challenges of housing. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

He noted that so far this year, the Tenant in Situ scheme has surpassed its target of acquiring 1,500 properties with 2,412 properties purchased or in the process of being purchased under the scheme.

Commenting on the announcement earlier that the government’s First Right of Refusal legislation has been delayed until autumn, the Housing Minister said the scheme is “effectively in practice” already.

Under the legislation, landlord’s who are selling their properties would be obligated to give their tenants the opportunity to buy the property ahead of other potential buyers.

When the measure was initially announced, the minister suggested that an independent valuation would be sought and if the tenant could pay that asking price, the property would be sold to them.

However, speaking at the press conference this afternoon, O’Brien said that he wants to make sure that whatever measures are brought forward do not elongate the conveyancing process and in effect slow the house purchase process further.

Elsewhere, O’Brien said that, if passed, a motion to be put forward by Sinn Féin on homelessness later today will “make the situation worse”.

In its motion, Sinn Féin will call on the government to introduce a three-year ban on rent increases and introduce a tax credit for private renters equivalent to one month’s rent.

According to the Department of Housing’s latest data, homelessness figures topped their previous record at the end of June, with 12,411 people in emergency accommodation in May.

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