Government pledge over emergency accommodation for homeless families
The Government has promised to only put homeless families in emergency hotel accommodation in very limited circumstances as it unveiled a radical plan to solve the unprecedented housing crisis.
Some 5.35 billion euro will be spent on 4 7,000 new social houses by 2021, and the number of homes being built each year will double to 25,000.
Another 1,500 rapid build social houses are planned, including 200 this year and 800 next year, and the Housing Agency is aiming to get 1,600 empty homes off banks, mortgage lenders and vulture funds.
The Rebuilding Ireland plan also includes 200m euro for councils to get large sites ready for developers to get on with building 15-20,000 homes. Up to 20 sites are being identified for this.
Other sites on state owned land are also being identified for 500 homes to be built by developers in 2017, increasing each year up to 1,000 homes by 2021.
The 84 proposals, some of which have deadlines, look to cut repossessions and improve rental contracts and bring in child, health, justice and welfare chiefs to help stem the flood of young and vulnerable people into homelessness.
It also includes plans for incentives to stop tenants being evicted even if a landlord sells up and for European models to be used to set rents close to market rates.
The proposals were outlined as more than 6,000 parents and children live in emergency homeless accommodation, and up to 130,000 people are on social housing waiting lists across the country.
Pat Doyle, chief executive of the P eter McVerry Trust, said the ideas showed a clear urgency to help young people and families at risk.
“The actions set out to support families will no doubt improve the situation of many households in hotel and B&B settings and we fully support efforts to phase out and ultimately eliminate the use of these types of accommodation within the homeless sector,” he said.
The trust said money was now being ring-fenced to help it open accommodation specifically for young people leaving state care.
As the plan was unveiled, Focus Ireland said 72 families became homeless in Dublin in June – 502 families with 995 children were added to homeless lists in Dublin in the first six months of the year.
Director of advocacy Mike Allen said: “It is positive that the plan provides direction, but the litmus test will be when we see roofs over people’s heads – be this through bricks and mortar of building social housing or by the taking the urgent steps required to provide a better private rented sector.”
Focus Ireland said plans to tackle family homelessness fell far short and warned using rapid build homes could become permanent homes if left unchecked.
The Rebuilding Ireland plan also looks to expand Housing First by tripling tenancy targets in Dublin and extend it to other cities.
The Government also said the next budget will have proposals worked on with the Central Bank to make mortgages more accessible and affordable.
For families forced into emergency hotel accommodation it said they should be supported with breakfast and after school clubs for children, access to a creche for pre-school years and free school transport.
The Government also aims to spend 10m euro a year on the affordable rent scheme to put people up in at le ast 2,000 properties by 2018.
On building, three sites are to be found for at least 3,000 new homes from 2017-2021 in Dublin and other cities and 10m euro has been set aside for homes for people with disabilities and a pilot scheme for up to 60 homes for the elderly is planned for Dublin.
A new unit for pregnant homeless women will also be opened.
Analysis of the crisis-hit housing market showed there are 115 active housing sites in Greater Dublin.
The capital has planning permission in place for 26,886 homes, but less than one fifth of them are being built.
Environment Minister Simon Coveney said providing homes for people is the Government’s number one priority.
“It’s crucial that we move from words to actions immediately,” he said.
“We may not have all the answers to address every issue right now but the actions, funding and structures that we are announcing today have the potential to make early and very substantial progress on the journey to fixing our broken housing sector.”
Mr Coveney added: “While it’s a huge challenge, it simply has to be done.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: ” I am committed to ensuring that it results in us achieving our critical national ambition of ensuring that all our people have access to quality and affordable housing, either through their own endeavours or with the support of the State. ”
Ruth Coppinger, Anti Austerity Alliance TD, said the plan marked the end of local authority housing as we know it.
“The plan is a landlords’ and developers’ manifesto,” she said.
“As well as not proposing measures to curb their profiteering on rents, it defends and promotes their interests by continuing the use of the private sector as a substitute for public housing, alongside introducing a new range of tax breaks to incentivise landlords.”