Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has called on the Government to start examining options outside of its Rebuilding Ireland initiative if it’s to effectively tackle the homelessness crisis.

The latest census data reveals that there were 896 families with 1,720 children classified as homeless on census night last year.

Deputy Rabbitte said, “Despite initiatives introduced by successive Ministers, the fact of the matter is that that initiaitves undertaken by this and the last Government are simply not working.  The number of homeless people has rocketed by a massive 81% between 2011 and 2016, and the number of families and children without a permanent home is now a national scandal.

“The Government seems to think that Rebuilding Ireland is the solution to all problems, but the reality is very different.  While it is widely acknowledged that building houses takes time, the Government is continuing to ignore areas where units are already built but are vacant.  Census 2016 revealed that almost 260,000 homes – 15% of total housing stock – are vacant across the country.  This is shameful, but it does provide an opportunity for the relatively quick turnaround of these units into homes.

“Earlier this year Fianna Fáil published the Vacant Housing Refurbishment Bill 2017 which will expedite the development of older or commercial units, which are frequently vacant, in towns and city centres for housing.

“Combined with this, the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders must be reconsidered.  While local authorities already have the powers to use CPOs, many are reluctant to do so because of the legal and administrative expenses which go hand in hand with them.  We need to see renewed CPO powers given to local authorities to take over the management of a long term vacant property, for a specified period and under certain strict criteria for the public good.  The property owners would be paid rent for the duration of the order, minus the costs of refurbishing and managing the building.

“The Government cannot remain blinkered on this issue – they need to widen its scope and adopt some of the measures that we have put on the table.  Homelessness in Ireland has spiralled out of control and we need to act swiftly in the interests of the thousands of adults and children who have nowhere to call home”.