Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen TD says the Government is allowing the homelessness crisis slip back down the agenda as new figures reveal than more than 370 families, including 803 children were being housed in emergency accommodation last month.  Despite setting up a special forum on homelessness before Christmas, the Government has failed to take adequate action to deal with a situation which is seeing hundreds of families in Dublin and across the country left without a home.

Deputy Cowen commented, “Last November the Taoiseach claimed that homelessness was a priority for the Government, but month on month we’ve seen the number of families forced out of their private rented accommodation and into emergency shelters rise steadily.  The Government’s social housing programme will take at least 18 months to deliver.  Does the Taoiseach and the Environment Minister expect these families, and the countless others who will fall into the emergency accommodation trap over the next year, to live in hotels and hostels until these houses are built? 

“The Government is continuing with its spin that homelessness is one of its main priorities, but the reality is very different.  The fact is the number of people falling into homelessness, especially in Dublin, is growing month on month.  The vast majority of these people are coming from the private rental sector, where they can no longer afford rising rents.

“Minister Alan Kelly has done nothing to address rent supplement, despite the highly dysfunctional rental market.  In fact it was this Government that made the decision to cut the rent supplement and rent cap.  This measure has resulted in families being forced out of their homes because they can no longer afford the increasing rents.  The abolition of the Mortgage Interest Supplement has placed even more pressure on struggling homeowners, who were already unable to meet their repayments, with some even being forced to hand back the keys to their family home.

“Fianna Fáil has been consistently calling for a review of the rent supplement scheme, which would see the rent supplement increased to reflect the state of the market.  Instead of re-launching and rehashing housing policies, the Minister, along with his Cabinet colleagues must begin implementing tangible measures to tackle the short term, as well as the long term issues.  Unless urgent action is taken, this situation is destined to deteriorate, and even more families will be forced to spend months or possibly years, in inappropriate and unsuitable temporary accommodation in our towns and cities”.