Friday 19 January 2018

Housing crisis 'drowned out by beauty parade' of FG leadership battle - Dáil row hears

Simon Coveney and Leo Vardkar
Simon Coveney and Leo Vardkar

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

The homeless crisis is being “drowned out by the beauty parade” of Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar who are vying to be the next Taoiseach, it has been claimed

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has launched a blistering attack on the men via for the leadership of Fine Gael, saying they are two people who have helped fuelled the crisis.

He described revelations that 12 families, including more than 30 children, were told to go to Garda stations on Tuesday night because there no hotel or emergency accommodation was available.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the development marked a “new low” in the housing crisis and needed emergency action.

Solidary-PBP have put forward legislation that would restrict evictions and bring rent levels back to 2011 rates – but it will be voted down by the Government today with the help of Fianna Fáil.

The Dun Laoghaire TD said he wanted to “express fury and anger” over the decision, saying Fianna Fáil “don’t want to upset landlords and vulture funds”.

He said Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar’s “fingerprints are all over the housing crisis” but they are “prancing around the country vying for the positon of Taoiseach”.

He said the Rent Pressure Zones introduced by the Housing Minister in a bid to cap rates was being ignored by landlords.

And Mr Boyd Barrett warned that a change of personal in the Department of Housing after the new Taoiseach’s appointment would be “another excuse” for the Government to delay taking action.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has conceded that it is “unacceptable” that homeless families were forced to seek shelter in a garda station.

But Ms Fitzgerald has also told the Dáil that the cases were “exceptional” and plans to end homeless families living in hotels will be realised by the middle of this year.

“What happened last Tuesday night is unacceptable – but it was exceptional. It was out of the ordinary,” the Justice Minister said in reply to scathing attacks from Fianna Fáil housing spokesman, Barry Cowen.

Mr Cowen said the homeless situation in Dublin was now a humanitarian crisis. “It is a damning indictment of this Government,” he said.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said there were 24 vacant houses for every homeless families.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said up to  200,000 houses were vacant across the country. But still 12 families were forced to go to a garda station for shelter last Tuesday.

“There is no amount of discussion of policy that could inure us to the real impact of this ongoing crisis on 12 families,” Mr Howlin said.

The Justice Minister said there was now €3.5bn being made available for social housing. A major programme was under way to ensure vacant houses are brought back into use.

“By the end of this year we will see a dramatic increase in supply,” Ms Fitzgerald added.

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