Sunday 21 January 2018

Councils call on Government to recreate house-building boom

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

LOCAL authorities have claimed it is "time to start building" in order to solve the current crisis in homelessness.

Some 89,872 households are currently on social housing lists, with 48 families becoming newly homeless in the last month alone.

At an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on meeting the current housing demand, representatives from housing charities warned that the crisis is worsening.

Representatives from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council told how the Housing Department currently manages a stock of over 4,200 social housing units, with 4,319 applicants now on the Council's Social Housing Support List.

About 55pc of those on the list are living in private rented accommodation, and a further 20pc are living with parents.

In a submission to the committee, the council said that a situation whereby demand for private-rented accommodation far exceeds supply has hit their county. Rents have also escalated, diminishing the effectiveness of rent supplements since the rates given are "well below" the average rent rates for family homes in the area.

It said increasing numbers of households are presenting as homeless due to a number of reasons, including "banks foreclosing and forcing sales".

The Council said the problem will not be solved by the provision of an increase in social housing supply only and there needs to be an increase in the supply through "a restarting of construction activity".

Roscommon County Council has also set aside land for building social housing, saying they are currently paying excess rent to private landlords to provide housing for their tenants.

But Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, said that another housing boom will not offer a solution to the current housing and homelessness crisis. He pointed out that homelessness almost doubled during the previous housing boom.

He called for the establishment of a special Oireachtas Committee or taskforce to examine the issue of housing "and all factors which feed into housing policy".

He warned that the factors that cause people to become homeless or reliant on the State to secure housing also need to be addressed.

Donal McManus, of the Irish Council for Social Housing, said a "sequence of crises" over the last 20 years, with successive bouts of undersupply and oversupply have acutely hit the most vulnerable.

He called for an increase in capital funding to allow housing associations to provide more social housing by obtaining mortgages. Mr McManus said the 12 largest housing associations in the country have shown that they have a capacity to provide 4,860 homes over the next three years.

Irish Independent

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