Coveney: 'I'm not crazy - I will end homeless families living in hostels'
Housing Minister Simon Coveney has defended his plan to tackle the housing crisis - insisting "we're ahead of schedule".
And he vowed that despite a view that he was "crazy" to promise an end to homeless families being housed in hotels, he is "going to make that happen".
Almost six months after the launch of his 'Rebuilding Ireland' action plan, Mr Coveney said there would be about 14,000 homes completed in 2016. This is still far short of the 25,000 that the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) estimated has to be built every year to meet demand.
"We're ahead of schedule in terms of the Rebuilding Ireland plan," Mr Coveney said, adding that he expected as many as 19,000 housing units to be built in 2017.
Mr Coveney said the Government exceeded its target of 4,200 social housing solutions last year by almost 1,000 through acquisitions, bringing voids units back into use, long-term lease arrangements, and new construction.
"There's a real acceleration happening here in terms of delivery," he said, pledging that there would be more than 21,000 social housing solutions provided in 2017.
He also pointed to measurements of activity in the building sector including an increase in construction commencements and figures that show planning permissions in Dublin increased by 57pc in the third quarter of 2016 and were up 45pc nationally.
He said that Government funding for housing this year would come to €1.2bn, up from €800m. The latest figures showed that almost 7,000 people were homeless, but Mr Coveney insisted the problem was "solvable".
He said this should include providing for medical needs as well as housing - particularly for rough sleepers - and he also vowed to end the practice of housing homeless families in hotels.
He said some people said he was "crazy" to promise a solution to the use of hotels and B&Bs for emergency accommodation for families by the middle of 2017, but he added: "I am going to make that happen."
Mr Coveney said that he thought Ireland was now "a more socially divided place than I can ever remember", saying this wasn't unusual among European countries that had gone through recession and austerity.
He said he believed housing was a way of "healing" social division and that the creation of mixed-tenure communities that included private, social and affordable housing was the "most ambitious thing" in his action plan.