Saturday 22 October 2016

Ex-Treasury's Barrett calls for Social Housing Tsar

Published 31/01/2016 | 02:30

Richard Barrett. Pic Steve Humphreys
Richard Barrett. Pic Steve Humphreys

Former Treasury Holdings boss Richard Barrett has called for the appointment of a Tsar to oversee Ireland's social housing crisis.

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Barrett says that up to 150,000 households will need to be accommodated over the next five years, and with tight government budgets, the majority of new homes will have to be built with private funding.

The crisis is now so acute, he says, that a local authority rented a house at €8,000 a month on "one of the two best roads in Dublin" to house a homeless mother with four children. "It's absolutely daft and I am sure that poor woman doesn't want to be living there and it's costing the state a fortune," says the developer, whose Bartra Capital is offering to build social amenities such as houses and nursing homes and rent them back to the state.

"One of the consequences of the financial crisis is that Ireland, which was always good at building social housing, hasn't built a brick, relatively speaking, in nine years," he says. Currently there are 110,000 households on social housing lists and another 30,000 who may need to be accommodated if the banks foreclose on their homes because of mortgage arrears.

"If you express that in sums of money, that is about €25bn. The same thing has happened with nursing homes, the population is getting older, you are seeing a big need for Alzheimers, dementia, the need for cancer care. The Government has a huge need for private investment.

"I have formed a series of investment companies, all required to be authorised by the Central Bank, all called Bartra, whatever sector they are in, Housing, Social Housing, Health Care, Renewable Energy etc. We will build these facilities, renting them to the Irish Government.

"When the need is that pressing and you have these social consequences what you really need is a Tsar. It needs someone that can get rid of any bureaucratic hurdle."

He also suggests such a person should be able to over-ride the planning laws for a three-year period to attain the objective.

"There is chaos in social housing, because of the deficit in housing. Single persons and single persons with one or two children are being put in two- and three-bedroom houses, it's ridiculous."

Barrett believes that he and other private funds - "the more the merrier" - can help to end the crisis but it needs the appointment of a Tsar.

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