Barry Cowen TD
Spokesperson on Housing and the Environment

02 March 2016

Bigger and bolder responses needed to tackle Homeless emergency – Cowen

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing and the Environment, Deputy Barry Cowen, has said that urgent actions are required to tackle the homeless crisis.

“The fact of the matter is that the current government housing policy is failing drastically.

“With the number of families becoming newly homeless in January at historic records, bigger and bolder actions are needed keep families in their homes and to provide secure accommodation to families who have already lost their’s.

“Despite all the posturing over the last year, fewer than 246 new social homes were constructed in 2015. This is while there are 130,000 households – close to 350,000 individuals – on the social housing waiting list.

“Social home construction cannot be used as a political football by the next government.

“While this government has repeatedly announced that large allocations are available for the construction and acquisition of social homes, for all intents and purposes this funding has not been forthcoming. As those on the ground know, the Department have just not been approving social housing projects.

“We need a national building programme in which all primary stakeholders, including the Department, Local Authorities and Voluntary/ Cooperative housing bodies are given the resources and mandate to fast-track social home construction and are held to account if they do not.

“Modular housing was sold as a silver bullet solution to the short-term needs of homeless families, but as it has turned out not only are these units vastly more expensive to provide than permanent constructions and acquisitions, they are not any quicker to build.

“While there are still over 3,000 social housing units under the control of local authorities sitting vacant nationwide, the Minister has refused to spend more than €30,000 on the refurbishment for these homes. This cap on refurbishment has to be removed immediately and these homes used to house homeless families by the end of the year.

“Most importantly, to prevent the crisis getting any worse families have to be kept in their homes at present, by raising Rent Supplement and putting a stay on repossessions.

“This is one of the biggest crises to face the State in recent history.  We need a government that understands the enormous consequences of homelessness for families and for our society and that realises bigger and bolder policies are needed to solve this emergency,” added Deputy Cowen.