Homelessness likely to worsen before improving, Minister admits

Eoghan Murphy criticised by Opposition over lack of ambition as situation deteriorates

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: “All of our housebuilding targets and our social housing support targets are looking like we will exceed our numbers for this year, and we are more ambitious again for next year.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: “All of our housebuilding targets and our social housing support targets are looking like we will exceed our numbers for this year, and we are more ambitious again for next year.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The homelessness crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better, the Minister for Housing has admitted.

Eoghan Murphy has been strongly criticised by opposition parties for warning the situation is likely to deteriorate before there are any signs of improvement.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin said the comments showed a lack of ambition on the part of Government to adequately deal with the situation.

However, speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Murphy said there was an onus on the Government to ensure people were aware of the realities.

He added: “I have to be honest with the public and it would be irresponsible to be otherwise. All of our housebuilding targets and our social housing support targets are looking like we will exceed our numbers for this year, and we are more ambitious again for next year.”

This was good news “in terms of sustainable and secure solutions – real homes for people who need homes”, he said.

“But we will continue to have a challenge in terms of people becoming homeless. That’s means a greater focus on prevention is needed.

“But I will make sure that we have enough supports to make sure that every family has safe accommodation if they need it and that no individual will be forced to sleep rough over the coming months.”

Public housing

The comments were called into question by Mr Murphy’s political opponents, including Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin who blamed Government policy for the deterioration in the housing crisis.

Mr Ó Broin added: “Unless the Minister abandons his over-reliance on the private sector to deliver social and affordable homes, and starts to invest in large-scale public housing projects, the housing crisis will, unfortunately, continue.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on housing, Barry Cowen, said Mr Murphy’s comments in recent weeks showed his reluctance to address the problem.

Mr Cowen listed a number of commitments the Minister had made in recent months and claimed he had failed to publish a scheme on affordable housing or the results of a commission on taxation or introduce a vacant site tax.

The Government has been under significant political pressure to adequately respond to the housing crisis and its public commentary on the matter in recent days has been strongly criticised.

International standards

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Murphy have claimed Ireland has one of the lowest levels of homelessness when compared with international standards.

Meanwhile, Minister of State Damien English has said the media’s reporting of the crisis has damaged Ireland’s international reputation.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan described the narrative as “disturbing” and urged Ministers to resist making such comments.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Murphy are due to unveil a foundation stone marking the construction of 84 new social homes in Clongriffin, Dublin, on Monday morning. This scheme is one of the largest “Part V” developments to come on stream for some time.

It forms part of the Iveagh Trust’s target of delivering 650 additional units by 2020, having already delivered 70 new units as part of a supported housing scheme for older people in Ballyfermot, earlier this year.