Thursday 8 December 2016

It's not rocket science - we just need to build more houses

Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30

'Many local authorities are responsible for holding up progress. It is easy to hide behind bureaucracy when you’re not namechecked in
the media' Stock photo: Graham Moore
'Many local authorities are responsible for holding up progress. It is easy to hide behind bureaucracy when you’re not namechecked in the media' Stock photo: Graham Moore

It is early days, but the new Housing Minister Simon Coveney appears to be taking a very pragmatic approach to the housing crisis. He has already had direct meetings with Focus Ireland, Father Peter McVerry and the chief executives of various local authorities.

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Even the Master of the High Court has spoken on the subject, addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness. As an equitable alternative to the banks repossessing homes in cases where the purchaser has lost their job and fallen into arrears, Edmund Honohan suggests that the local authority should buy back these houses from the vulture funds, and rent them as social housing to the occupants. That way, nobody is evicted, and the children remain in their home instead of going to school from a hotel room. Society has no idea what effects these evictions will have on a generation of socially disadvantaged children - and the fallout will be as a result of the mess made by the last two governments.

It might seem rather obvious, but the key to solving the social and affordable housing crisis is to build. The money has been allocated, the will is there, the need is there in abundance - but the last five years have produced little more than token pre-fabricated dwellings at €243,000 each, and 6,000 homeless people in hotels at a cost of €45m in the last year. Further funding can be borrowed at 1pc for buying back property. There really is no excuse for further inaction. At this point, local authorities are well aware of the zoned land, vacant sites and derelict dwellings with former bedsits available to them.

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