Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea is accusing the Government of standing by and allowing a poverty crisis to develop.  His comments come as a delegation from the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty meets in Dublin this week.  The committee is arriving in the capital at a time when the housing and homelessness crisis continues to worsen.

“This Government’s has done little to address the housing crisis that has been emerging over the past three years.  Despite warnings that the country needs 25,000 housing units a year, last year only 8,000 units were completed.  This has led to a massive housing shortage, particularly in cities and large towns and has created a property bubble, both in the purchase and rental market”, commented Deputy O’Dea.

“The Government has only served to exacerbate the problem by pressing ahead with regressive budgets since it came into office.  This combination of higher taxes and increased rents, brought about by the housing shortage, is forcing families out of the private rental market and on to housing lists, which themselves are unable to cope with demand.  Local authorities are unable to cater for the high demand for social housing, and lists are growing longer by the week.

“Homelessness is on the rise, with homeless organisations reporting a major shift in their clientele.  They’re now seeing families coming to them looking for help, because they’re no longer able to afford to pay their rent.  This is the culmination of a lack of interest and action on the part of this Government, which has still not published any form of comprehensive housing plan, despite promises to do so when it came to office in 2011.

Deputy O’Dea added, “Cuts to services in health, education and social protection have impacted on every sector of society.    In successive budgets, Ministers have attacked the most vulnerable, slashing payments to carers, people with disabilities, children with special needs, older people and young job seekers.  At the same time, they’ve increased carbon tax, introduced a property tax and are now bringing in water charges for a sub-standard service.  People who were managing to keep their household finances tick over three years ago are now under unsustainable pressure.

“Only last year, Minister O’Sullivan made a commitment to end long term homelessness by 2016, however, it looks almost certain that this will be yet another in the long list of broken promises made by this Government.  Ministers need to publish a comprehensive action plan to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.  We’ve heard a lot about this long awaited housing plan, what we need now are details.  Without a dedicated plan, this situation will worsen and more people will fall victim of this housing and poverty trap”.

“The Government also needs to re-examine the high tax culture that it has implemented since it came into office.  It’s had a devastating impact on families across the country, hitting the middle and low-income households the hardest.  This policy has pushed thousands of families below the poverty line and has created extreme hardship for thousands more”.