The Government has been accused of failing to tackle homelessness after the number of people in emergency accommodation hit 10,000 for the first time.
Figures released on Wednesday showed a total of 10,264 people were in emergency accommodation in February. This statistic includes more than 3,700 children.
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dail on Thursday, Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary asked the Government to finally confess that its housing policy Rebuilding Ireland was not working.
The truth is there are more families and individuals coming into homelessness now than I think any of us in this house predictedTanaiste Simon Coveney
He said only 72 social houses had been built in the capital last year and claimed that 64% of the houses supplied were bought off-market.
“They’re houses people were looking for, first-time buyers, families, and the Government is muscling them out of the market,” he said.
“Funds are pre-buying before they even go to market. Funds are in buying apartments on block then driving up rental prices.”
Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the Government was not disputing that the figures were far too high.
“If you look at the number of people we’re taking out of homelessness it’s a higher figure than ever before,” he said.
“The truth is there are more families and individuals coming into homelessness now than I think any of us in this house predicted.”
The Tanaiste said supply was being increased and that the Government was committed to creating 50,000 new social housing units by 2021.
“Rebuilding Ireland was a five-year housing plan – we are three years into that. There are serious issues to deal with but it is simply not true to say that housing output isn’t increasing, that the rental market isn’t changing for the better,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said the figures were an “absolute and utter disgrace” and represented a national scandal.
Mr Doherty said there were almost 4,000 children in emergency accommodation whose lives had been “wrecked before they’ve ever really begun”.
Yet he said Fine Gael had the audacity to say that the housing plan was working.
The Sinn Fein finance spokesman called on him to “do the right thing” and support his party’s proposed legislation aimed at improving the housing market.
“We have proposed that you should double the amount of social investment in social homes and affordable homes and you’ve rejected that,” he said.
“You’ve a decision to make today that the major causes of homelessness in this state is landlords evicting their tenants into homelessness.”
Mr Coveney responded that he was not hearing him any clearer because he was shouting.
“The truth is that what you’re proposing today won’t work. We know it won’t legally or in practical terms,” he said.
“If we thought it would we would support it.”
Instead, he said the Government would be introducing proposals that they thought would work.
Solidarity People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tanaiste: “Are you not ashamed of yourselves?”
He said it was not acceptable that thousands of children did not have a home.
“Those children’s lives will be irredeemably scarred and marked by the experience of living in emergency accommodation,” he said.
“Since Rebuilding Ireland was published, the number of adults in emergency accommodation is up 117%, the number of children in emergency accommodation is up 247%, the number of children since Fine Gael entered government in 2011 is up 470%. Are you not ashamed of that?”
Mr Coveney replied: “I’m focusing on solutions, you’re focusing on drama as usual.
“Of course, I’m very conscious of the fact that we have 10,000 people in emergency accommodation tonight. I’m not happy about that and the Government should not be either and we are going to change it.”