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18 December 2008 Edition

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Joint Sinn Féin/Labour Party Dáil motion

Action urged on housing and homeless crisis

A joint motion in the name of the Sinn Féin and Labour TDs has called for action to address the worsening crisis in housing and the rising level of homelessness. Numbers on local authority waiting lists have risen by more than 30% in three years, an estimated 5,000 people are homeless and there has been a significant rise in repossessions orders for family homes in the courts.
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD moved the Dáil motion and called for the construction of an additional 10,000 social housing units each year for the next three years to meet the glaring social need. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Sinn Féin believes that housing is a right, not a privilege. While the majority of people living in the state can afford to own or rent their own home, an increasing number can not. That is a situation which unfortunately is set to worsen given the current economic climate and the rapidly rising level of unemployment. Indeed there is also an increasing number of people who because of that are being forced out of accommodation which they were in the process of buying through a mortgage and therefore onto the public housing lists.
“The number of people availing of mortgage interest supplement has doubled in two years.
“While benefit measures such as rent supplement, mortgage interest supplement and the rental accommodation scheme have a role in addressing housing problems, it is Sinn Féin’s firm view that the provision of social housing, funded by government, via local authorities must be the central element in any successfully housing strategy. Unfortunately that did not happen over the most recent period when the resources were more available to the State than at any other time in our history.
“With rising unemployment in the construction sector, the government should also provide additional resources, or loan guarantees to local authorities to commence an expanded social housing new build programme in the coming year. That would represent a significant boost to the sector and to the overall economy at the current time.
“At the very minimum we need 10,000 new social houses to be provided per year, net of tenant purchase, if the needs of the 59,000 households on local authority waiting lists are to be met. I say at the minimum because the actual demand is undoubtedly higher and also for the reason that the numbers seeking to leave private accommodation, which they are either buying or renting, will increase significantly over the next period if as predicted the economy continues to be in a depressed condition.
“Figures released yesterday by the Homeless Agency in Dublin indicate a 4% increase in homelessness in the city. 2,300 people are homeless in Dublin tonight.”
Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris pointed out that the overall waiting list for Kerry is now over 3,300. That represents an increase of 82% since 2005. He said:
“In my own county the waiting list grew from 1,483 in 2002 to 1,831 in 2005. That was despite the fact that those years witnessed the pinnacle of the Celtic Tiger. And yet despite that, the signals were not recognised and the necessary steps taken to address the fact that the public housing building programme was inadequate to meet demand.
“Since then the situation has considerably worsened. The overall waiting list for the whole county is now over 3,300. That represents an increase of 82% since 2005. 1,296 of these are on the County Council list.”
Sinn Féin Economy spokesperson Arthur Morgan said that the recession is not only putting developers out of businesses and construction workers out of jobs, it is also putting people out of their homes. He told the Dáil:
“Every week, according to Threshold, an increasing number of people are having their homes repossessed because of difficulties in paying their mortgages or threatened with illegal eviction as landlords attempt to hike up rents.
“The government could intervene to halt repossessions and illegal evictions. It could introduce a two-year moratorium on repossessions, which require lenders to conclude an ‘affordable mortgage and debt payment arrangement’ which protects a ‘minimally adequate’ standard of living.”
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on greater powers and resources for local authorities to enforce standards in private rented accommodation:
“The Department of Environment must ensure that Local Authorities take a proactive approach to their responsibilities to inspect rented accommodation and ensure that Local Authorities are adequately resourced to conduct inspections effectively. Local Authorities must be empowered, resourced and instructed to conduct more inspections. Implementing such a policy is critical if the revised standards for private rented dwellings are to have practical positive effects for tenants.”

Aengus Ó Snodaigh moved the Dáil motion



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