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Housing and homelessness crisis

Housing need was raised on several occasions.  In the Seanad, Aideen Hayden (Lab, Taoiseach nominee) described the release of only 397 NAMA homes for social housing as ‘derisory’ (Seanad Eireann, 18th September 2013, 7).  She compared it to the 10,000 homes under its control released to the private sector.  We were falling very far short of what was needed for social housing, because we had more than 98,000 people on the waiting list and the National Economic and Social Forum had estimated that we needed 9,000 homes a year to cope with demand.  Her comments were supported by Denis Landy (Lab, administrative).  Later, on NAMA homes, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Jan O’Sullivan told Derek Nolan (Lab, Galway W) that NAMA had identified 4,300 properties, of which 2,190 were identified as potentially suitable and 296 delivered so far (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th September 2013, 780).


Aideen Hayden pointed to the increase in the numbers of people homeless (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 25th September 2013, 204, 207)).  Lack of affordable housing was at the root of the problem.  Cuts in the rent supplement budget had been incredibly damaging to vulnerable families had contributed to the numbers homeless.  Maurice Cummins (FG, labour) drew attention to the government strategy on homelessness and in Dublin in 2012, 879 people had moved from homelessness to independent living.  The government had continued to support homeless services with funding of €45m, going to groups like Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities and Crosscare.


In the Dail, Mary Lou McDonald (SF, Dublin central) remarked on the increase of the numbers sleeping rough by 88%, according to figures from Dublin Simon Community (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th September 2013, 580-1; 584).   Michael Kitt (FF, Galway E) spoke of an eight-year waiting list for housing in Galway.   The Taoiseach told them that the ministers responsible for housing would work with the agencies concerned to see how the situation might be improved and how to get the best value from the money being spent.  The minister would be meeting with NAMA to see how units might be acquired for housing.  Later, on an adjournment debate (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th September 2013, 643-6), Catherine Byrne (FG, Dublin SC) reported how one night there were 85 people sleeping rough in Dublin.  300 people attended Merchant’s Quay each day.  Yet, there were vacant units in Dublin and the city council’s budget was such that there was no money for work on vacant units and some of those who used to do the work had been let go.  The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Jan O’Sullivan, told her that she was giving €62m this year to Dublin City Council for its 2013 social housing programme, including €31m for regeneration and €98.m for remedial works, with priority given to refurbish voids and bring them back into use and improve older homes requiring improvement.  Catherine Byrne, though, pointed out that this was of little use to those on the housing list or who could not get into flats.  The minister of state told her that she hoped to meet the new city manager and director of housing services to address these issues.  They had also proposed €100m from the EU structural and investment funds for deep retrofitting of apartments and flats.


The Dail returned to the issue during an adjournment debate (Dail Eireann, Debates, 26th September 2013, 871-2).  Michael Kitt (FF, Galway E) quoted the chief executive of the Simon Community, who said that homelessness was now worse than ever.  Homeless people could not afford private rented accommodation, there was no extra accommodation being provided and it was a complete logjam.  Kevin Humphries (Lab, Dublin SE) described it as a problem much more serious than the numbers sleeping rough, for there were people sleeping on their friends‘ floors moving weekly or daily.  He could wallpaper his home with the number of reports and strategies produced.  Dessie Ellis (SF, Dublin NW)  presented a series of figures on the housing and homeless crisis, suggesting that homelessness was spiraling out of control.  Next year Dublin City Council would build only 18 houses, apart from regeneration projects: ‘if we do not build more social housing, we face a major tragedy’.   Responding for the government, Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State at the Department of Education & Skills, outlined the set of government measures and spending which addressed the problem and assured them of the commitment to housing-led approaches to end long-term homelessness by 2016.  Indicators were being used to demonstrate the dynamics of homelessness across the country and from 2013, reports would be provided to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

> Residential tenancies Bill 2013: Seanad Eireann, Debates, 24th September 2013, 155 – 176.

> Government strategy on homelessness: Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th September 2013, 618.

> Supports for homeless services: Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th September 2013, 624-5