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Incoming Government must prioritise Housing and call it a National Emergency

 

Limerick TD Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan said: “It is likely that a new Fine Gael minority government supported by Fianna Fáil will be formed this week. 

The strong indications are that that government will include a new stand-alone Department and Minister for Housing.  On taking office the new Minister should take a moment and reflect on those in emergency accommodation and the huge number lingering on the housing waiting list. The numbers of people seeking secure housing is not just a national scandal, they are a screaming alarm bell telling us all that our housing system is broken. What is clearly a national emergency should be treated as such.”

 

Deputy Quinlivan continued:

“The growing number of homeless families is not some quirk of the housing market, it didn’t happen by accident. It is the direct result of decades of failed housing policy pursued by successive governments.

“Homeless service providers have been saying this in the strongest terms for years. They have been warning that a failure by the state to invest in large scale social housing by local authorities would result in a social emergency. Unfortunately this is what is unfolding.”

Previous Governments refused to listen. A failing policy consensus prevailed. Familes without secure homes has resulted in a social emergency for many especially children, a crisis that was predicted.

“The new Minister for Housing has a very simply choice. Change direction and policy not follow the mistakes of their predecessors. They also need to accept that the system in broken and fundamental policy change is needed or the crisis will deepen.”

Any new minister must declare a State of Emergency. It must realise that Alan Kelly’s Social Housing Strategy 2020 plan that depends on the private sector to deliver 80% of its 100,000 units is doomed to fail. If we don’t admit the scale of the problem then how can we hope to solve it?”

Quinlivan outlined some of the urgent action required:

“We should double capital investment in local authority and housing association social housing. We must use whatever is the most efficient funding source – revenue, borrowing and if necessary negotiate an exemption for social housing investment from EU spending rules with the European Commission for the duration of the emergency.”

“Immediate steps need to be taken. We need to prioritise the immediate purchase of properties to meet housing targets in year one. Apply the same fast track procurement process for standard social housing as that was used for the Ballymun rapid build houses. This would cut project times and deliver homes quicker. Amend the Mortgage to Rent Scheme to make it a more attractive option for both lenders and housing bodies and apply greater pressure to banks to meet ambitious targets.

Introduce rent certainty, linking rent increases and decreases to the Consumer Price Index and adjust rent supplement and housing assistance payment rates to current market rents.

Quinlivan concluded: “Unfortunately there will be lots of people who will give the new Minister for Housing lots of reasons why any or all of these actions can’t be taken. But those seeking housing and can’t find a landlord that will accept the Housing Assistance Payment can’t wait any longer. 

The Council has no houses and thousands remain on the housing list. It is a National emergency, call it as it is.”