Sunday 19 November 2017

Minister issues housing diktat to council chiefs

Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has warned local authority chiefs that communities must not be allowed prevent councils from accommodating homeless people.

In a hard-hitting letter, which will be sent to local authority chief executives tomorrow, Mr Murphy also insists they should be doing more "heavy lifting" to help resolve the worst housing crisis to hit the country in decades.

The minister says he is "seriously concerned" that some councils are not treating the homelessness emergency with the "urgency it deserves".

He also reminds them of their obligations and responsibilities to address the shortage of accommodation.

The minister now plans to haul in the chief executives of every county and city council into a crisis summit on housing and homelessness in his department.

The local authority bosses will be asked to update the minister on their housing plans and bring solutions aimed at addressing the problem to the meeting.

The meeting is aimed at "banging heads together" as the housing shortage continues to escalate and the number of homeless people continues to rise every month.

In his letter, Mr Murphy warns that "local communities must not be allowed to stand in the way of accommodating homeless people".

A government source said the minister would no "longer accept excuses from" council chiefs who complained about communities stopping them from building emergency accommodation for homeless people.

The minster will also tell chief executives to be "innovative" in finding solutions and advised them to make changes to their systems if they are not working or slowing down delivery.

He also will assure local authorities that the Government will "not be shy in dealing with this and resources and funding not an issue".

Mr Murphy is focusing his attention on increasing the supply of houses and apartments and wants local authorities to find solutions to increase the construction of homes in their counties.

"Resourcing and funding are not the issue - local authorities have to do more heavy lifting," a source said.

"In areas like Dublin, local authorities in the county must see this as a shared responsibility and not be relying on the city council to meet everyone's needs. That won't be possible and anyway local electoral boundaries mean nothing to a homeless family. Likewise, solutions are going to have to be found across county boundaries," the source added.

Last week, Mr Murphy was accused of trying to bury bad news by releasing monthly homelessness figures on the Friday evening of the August bank holiday weekend.

The minister released a statement insisting the Government was dedicated to addressing the problem. Recent figures show their are currently 5,036 homeless people, and this includes 1,365 families and 118 children.

Sunday Independent

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