Shoebox living versus the homelessness crisis
Published 23/12/2015 | 02:30
Politics, they tell us, is the skilled use of blunt objects; and by such a measure, Environment Minister Alan Kelly is becoming more adept. His plans for the introduction of new, smaller minimum standards for apartment sizes have been roundly slated by architects before the ink has even dried on the blueprints.
The Green Party is also unhappy, claiming the proposals amount to a caving-in to developers.
Besides, the architects insist, they will do nothing to address costs or increase housing output.
At around about the same time that Mr Kelly was unveiling his plans, new figures were released revealing that three out of every five children in homeless accommodation are under the age of eight
So while one may question the details, the urgent need for something to be done can hardly be denied. There is a chronic shortage of housing; these measures will not sort out the problem, but they are a start.
Builders will get back into the game only when they see a profit. It is said that there are some 200 sites between Dublin's two canals that have the potential for major development. The case for a 'use it or lose it' tax to kick-start building is strong.
Arguments for removing obstacles to development and cutting red tape have been ignored for too long.
The most consistent criticism centres on the fact that the changes allow for studio apartments of just 40sq m.
The new minimum size for one-, two- and three-bedroom units is also smaller. While hardly ideal, the measures should cut costs despite claims to the contrary. Meanwhile, builders still contend that cutting the size is academic when access to finance is such a problem. And they have a point.
Uniform standards bring clarity and should result in better planning. However, in the short term these measures will be of little comfort to the 705 families currently living in homeless accommodation. As Focus Ireland pointed out, we were patting ourselves on the back not so long ago for putting the rights of children in our Constitution. Nonetheless, Santa Claus will still be visiting 1,000 of them in emergency accommodation this Christmas.
After tragedy, weather alerts keep coming
The tragic deaths of a mother and daughter who drowned in floodwater on their way to do their Christmas shopping will touch hearts across the country. The devastating sadness for the family can scarcely be imagined. To receive such heartbreaking news at this time of the year makes it all the more unbearable.
No doubt the community will rally round as local communities have done all over Ireland since the floods first struck.
However, last night Met Éireann issued a number of new weather warnings.
With so many on the move and in such conditions, the dangers are all too apparent.
Severe winds are expected in coastal counties. With heavy rain and higher-than-average tides also expected over the Christmas period, people must take every precaution.
Yesterday, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe called on the whole country to play its part in reducing the number of fatalities on our roads.
To do so, he said, would be the ultimate and most sincere tribute to the thousands for whom it is already, so sorrowfully, too late.