Government can solve homelessness crisis, rally hears

Economist tells House the Homeless event that funding to end shortage is available

The homelessness crisis could be solved with the necessary political will, given that there are several sources of funding available to the Government to provide housing for those currently without a home, an economist has told a rally highlighting the issue.

Dr Tom O'Connor, of Cork Institute of Technology, told a rally organised by the House the Homeless campaign group that there were several options available to the Government to obtain the funding to build social housing to alleviate the crisis.

“Homelessness is not an intractable problem if somebody had the political will to do something about it.

“The Government will tell you that they can’t get the money to build the houses to cater for the 90,000 people who are on the housing waiting list, but that’s not true.


"The Government can easily negotiate with the European Union to allow any money allocated for social housing be subtracted from the exchequer deficit when arriving at the general Government exchequer deficit, in the same way they did with the €63 billion used to bail out the banks.

Dr O'Connor said other options would be for the Government to borrow money from the European Investment Bank, or for money to be borrowed directly from the markets through the National Treasury Management Agency which is then made available to the voluntary housing associations.

Calling for an increase in the cap on rent supplement allowance, Dr O’Connor told the rally, which was attended by about 150 people, that the Government could also introduce a wealth tax, and that increasing taxes on multinationals would also generate the necessary funding.

He said that a wealth tax would generate €600 million a year, while increasing the level of corporation tax from its current rate of 3 per cent to 6 per cent would raise another €500 million.

The economist also said that eliminating property tax relief for the wealthy would generate another €400 million.

“You are easily talking about securing enough money to open up the 4,000 houses that are available around the country but are boarded up by local authorities and which could help address the homelessness crisis.”

Housing issues

The House the Homeless rally on Patrick Street in Cork city was also addressed by Sinn Féin TD for Cork North-Central Jonathan O’Brien, who said that 85 per cent to 90 per cent of people who contacted his constituency office were coming to him with housing issues.

“The first thing that needs to happen is that the Government declares the homelessness crisis a national emergency and if it was to do that it could access European funds to build social housing, but that comes down to a policy choice and the people in Leinster House don’t live in the real world.

“The people, who make these policy choices, only have to step outside their door and go 100 yards across the road to see a memorial to a poor man who died on our streets, and the reason it was highlighted was because it happened on the steps of Leinster House.

“Unfortunately, it’s happening across many towns and cities across the State and unfortunately there is a huge number of hidden homeless - the number of people who are homeless is growing and it is down to Government policy.”

Cian O'Sullivan, of Amnesty International, told the rally that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights recognised the right of people to proper housing and the Government should enshrine a right to proper housing in the Constitution as a first step to addressing the homelessness crisis.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times