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Saturday 15 December 2018

Rise in number of homeless 'is disturbing', says Varadkar

(stock photo of a homeless person)
(stock photo of a homeless person)

Cormac McQuinn and Wayne O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted that the rise in homelessness is "extremely disturbing" as the government came under major pressure over the latest figures showing almost 10,000 people in emergency accommodation.

He told the Oireachtas Finance Committee that tackling housing and homelessness is a government priority but was challenged by Sinn's Féin's Pearse Doherty on how this remark can be taken seriously given the latest homeless figures.

Mr Varadkar pointed to the €140m spent on emergency accommodation and plans in Project Ireland 2040 to build 110,000 social homes among measures that prove of the level of government commitment.

He said: "What we're not seeing is the kind of results that we'd like to see and that is unbelievably frustrating - of course most of all for people who are affected by homelessness."

He insisted this is not down to lack of funding or effort.

Mr Varadkar said the government will have to look into why policies aren't having the hoped-for effect.

Mr Doherty put it to Mr Varadkar that "the buck stops with you" and that he's "not a commentator",

He said the homeless figures are "astronomical" and activists on the front line say the government's plans are "deeply flawed".

Mr Varadkar said that "political point scoring" won't provide homes for anyone and adding that there's been a huge increase in spending on housing.

But he also claimed that opposition policies like hard rent caps would reduce housing supply and "would make a bad situation much worse".

Mr Doherty responded to the remarks accusing the Taoiseach of "cheek" in the wake of the new homeless figures.

Separately, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was also challenged on the issue in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil's outgoing housing spokesman Barry Cowen argued that Fine Gael's approach to the housing crisis has "lacked urgency".

He pointed out that the Confidence and Supply deal his party did with Fine Gael included an agreement to "substantially increase the provision of social housing".

He said Mr Murphy had mentioned examples of individual schemes, but there is no template for how to bring this about nationwide.

Mr Murphy said the government is focussing on developing affordable housing where it's needed most.

He said €25m is to be spent to develop infrastructure for 4,000 new homes on state-owned land and promised the delivery of cost rental projects for low income families.

Irish Independent

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