Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing and Environment Barry Cowen says tackling the homeless crisis is the top priority for Fianna Fáil in the new Dáil.

Responding to reports by homeless campaigner Fr. Peter McVerry, that up to 3,000 children could become homeless by 2017, Deputy Cowen said, “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.

“The housing policy being pursued by the outgoing Government is not treating this crisis with the priority it requires. With the number of families becoming newly homeless in January at historic levels, more urgent and bolder actions are needed keep families in their homes and to provide secure accommodation to families who have already lost theirs.

“There are 130,000 households – close to 350,000 individuals – on the social housing waiting list. Despite all the posturing over the last year, fewer than 246 new social homes were built in 2015. Social home construction can no longer be used as a political football.

“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, however it has emerged that not only are these units more expensive to construct than permanent houses, they aren’t being built any quicker either.

”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 has to be removed immediately and these homes used to house homeless families by the end of the year.

“To prevent the crisis getting any worse families have to be kept in their homes, by raising Rent Supplement, putting a stay on repossessions and providing greater security of tenure to tenants.

“Vulture funds cannot be allowed to act with impunity by removing families from their homes. Fianna Fáil will introduce legislation ensuring protection from the vulture funds for mortgage holders and tenants as a top priority”, concluded Deputy Cowen.