Families to be allowed refuse only one social housing offer
New Government policy may lead to housing applicants being removed from waiting list
Campaigners demonstrate outside Custom House in Dublin as local-authority chiefs met Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for an emergency summit. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Families waiting for social housing will be allowed to refuse only one offer of accommodation under a new Government policy.
More than 3,000 housing offers have been turned down because of a property’s size or location over the past two years, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Dublin city has the highest refusal rate.
Under the new approach, housing applicants who decline a second property can be moved down the waiting list or removed altogether.
Department of Housing sources stressed, however, that a final decision has not been made about the consequences of turning down a second offer.
Speaking after hosting an emergency summit on homelessness with the heads of 31 local authorities, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said he is also considering the roll-out of a relocation scheme that would allow applicants to boost their chances of getting social housing by expressing an interest in less-popular areas.
The Minister stressed this would be voluntary and require a series of supports to be put in place before any move would take place.
Other measures being considering include a mortgage-to-rent scheme, potential financial incentives for landlords who agree long-term leases, and a vacant-home levy. All will be discussed at next week’s Cabinet meeting.
Mr Murphy, who said that he was willing to examine all options and that funding would not be a problem, confirmed that social-housing policy will change to ensure that all funds will be redirected to building houses rather than buying individual homes. The change will mean another 800 new social-housing homes will be built next year.
An additional 200 emergency beds for homeless people in Dublin will be delivered by December, he said, and €10 million will be provided for family hubs, to house families in need of emergency accommodation. An interagency homelessness group will also be established to manage homeless services.
“I know it is not exhaustive. I know people will ask, ‘Is it enough?’ It is not enough,” he said. “More will come. When I make decisions I will announce them.”
The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, accused the Government of failing to get to grips with the scale of the crisis and claimed Mr Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were more concerned with public relations than with housing and homelessness.
“Unfortunately, the Government remains more focused on practising politics than delivering outcomes for people. This isn’t good enough. The fact that almost 3,000 of our children are homeless and people are dying on our streets is a national scandal. It requires urgency and energy, and we have seen neither. The time for talk has long since passed. It is time for action.”
The Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin also criticised the measures announced by the Minister.
The homelessness campaigner Peter McVerry welcomed them.