Census figures showing almost 7,000 people homeless last year highlight the urgent need for a national affordable housing scheme, according to Labour housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan.
She said the figures would come as no great surprise given the extent of homelessness, but expressed particular concern that families and children accounted for nearly half the total homeless population.
The vast majority of homeless people, 73 per cent, are centred in the Dublin region, and Ms O’Sullivan said “ it is clear that the issue of affordability in the housing and rental market needs to be urgently addressed”.
“There has been much focus on social housing in this discussion, but we also need to ensure that affordable housing is available for rent or purchase for the many people on low or middle incomes who simply can’t afford to buy a house in the current context, especially in Dublin.”
No State scheme
The Limerick TD said local authorities had no State scheme to rely on to ensure homes were affordable on the 700 publicly-owned sites identified for mixed tenure development.
“We need to see a sense of urgency about getting on with building social housing, using empty homes, and ensuring through a national scheme that homes that are built are affordable. As the numbers grow that is the only way there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”
National spokeswoman for the Simon Community Niamh Randall highlighted the increases in homelessness since the last census, with the number of families up 202 per cent and the number of households headed by one parent up 206 per cent.
Ms Randall said the high proportion of lone-parent families showed the absence of “income adequacy” and the inequity in income policy.
She said that as part of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme there should be a sub-strategy specifically on homelessness “to deal with the issue once and for all”.
Children aged four
Focus Ireland, a housing and homeless charity, described as the single "most shocking" finding of the census analysis that children aged four and under were the largest cohort experiencing homelessness when it was the 30- to 34-year-old category in Census 2011.
Director of advocacy for the agency, Mike Allen, said the census demolished myths about homelessness, and showed "people who are homeless look very much like everyone else in the population".
“This demonstrates the extent to which homelessness is linked to the wider housing crisis that impacts on all sections of society.”