The Government favours using vacant buildings to accommodate Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers rather than relying on ships or floating hotels, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has said.
Mr McGrath said that using housing stock that “was already there” was preferable to using ships.
“Our preference would be to use building stock. We still have a lot of vacant building stock in the country. We’ve made progress in recent days in relation to that,” he said.
“On the issue of so-called floating hotels, the Minister for Integration [Roderic O’Gorman] has to come to the Government with a view, and a proposal, that hasn’t happened yet.
“I think the consideration of that issue is at an early stage, and whether it will progress beyond that, I think is uncertain at this time,” Mr McGrath said.
“In general, I think our preference would be to use existing building stock and there is much of it all over the country, which is either unoccupied, or is underutilised. Those are buildings that are already there,’ he said.
[ Coalition plans tenders for floating accommodation to house asylum seekers ]
Mr McGrath said that €2 billion had been allocated this year to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, and to pay for their social welfare. He said the budget allotted to those seeking international protection was in addition to that and was shared across the Department of Justice and the Department of Integration.
“There are real costs that we cannot avoid. We’ve international obligations. We will continue to meet those and we will provide the necessary funding,” he said.
He said the funding for this issue was regarded as noncore and not recurring. However, he said it was unknown at this stage for how long the funding would have to be provided.
The Minister said his own view was that some of the people who have arrived here from Ukraine will settle here over the long term.
“Many of them are already working, are already making a contribution to our economy and to our society.”
He said that 85,000 people had come to Ireland since March 2022 between Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers and it had led to enormous difficulties in finding accommodation. “I think the truth is that there is no single answer. There’s no silver bullet. We are looking at all accommodation options that are there across the country.
“We certainly don’t want anybody to be sleeping on the streets, because there is no accommodation available,” he said
Mr McGrath was speaking in Ashtown, Dublin 15, where he opened a new residential development that has been wholly funded by the Home Building Finance Ireland.
The agency was set up by the Government to finance the building of new homes and at the end of 2022 had approved loans for 5,717 homes in 99 developments in 21 counties (68 per cent houses, 32 per cent apartments). In total, it approved loans worth €1.125 billion last year.