People who make themselves homeless ‘are exceptional cases’ - Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar says debate over homeless services shows they have improved

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has disagreed with remarks by Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council that some people may be reluctant to leave homeless services in the capital because they are now an “attractive” option.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has disagreed with comments by the chief executive of Dublin City Council that people may be reluctant to leave homeless services in Dublin because they are now an “attractive” option.

Owen Keegan was criticised for remarks he made in a Sunday Business Post interview that the massive recent investment in services had led to a reluctance of some homeless people to move on because of “higher-quality spaces”.

Mr Keegan was not questioning people’s motives, but “Dublin is a major draw for people who are homeless because there is a very wide range of service provision”.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil he disagreed with Mr Keegan and did not believe anyone chose to be homeless. He said the two main causes of family homelessness were family breakdown or a notice to quit being issued by a landlord and neither of those was a choice.

“So if there are people who are making themselves homeless to skip the queue or to available of services I imagine they are very few or far between. I imagine they are exceptional cases.”

He was responding to People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett in the Dáil who said the State has failed people who are homeless or waiting for 10 and 20 years on housing lists.

He suggested Mr Keegan should be a “little more apologetic and show a little bit of humility in the face of that failure rather than victim blaming and suggesting that somehow homeless emergency accommodation is an attractive option for people in desperate housing need”.

But the Taoiseach said there was wide agreement that homeless services had improved considerably.

That was through the development of the family hub programme which he said was much better than shelter accommodation or B & Bs or hotels.

Rent subsidies

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government had spent a “staggering” € 695 million last year on rent subsidies to private landlords and property owners.

“These very large spends don’t represent very good value for the taxpayer,” she said, adding that the total allocation to local authorities to build and buy new homes was just over €560 million, 20 per cent less than paid out to private landlords.

“That hardly makes any sense.”

She said latest figures highlight the reliance on the private rental sector to meet long-term housing need while at the same time under investing in social housing.

Earlier, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said 4,251 additional social housing units were built across the 31 local authority areas last year.

Announcing that he had published details on his department’s website of the annual housing targets and delivery details for last year, Mr Murphy said “overall the new-build social housing delivery last year, while marginally below target, was up 85 per cent on 2017”.

He said it was “more than eight times higher than in 2015, the year before Rebuilding Ireland was introduced”.

He told Independent TD Joan Collins that “this included delivery under a range of schemes, either led directly by local authorities or in partnership with approved housing bodies”.

“Of the 4,251 new homes provided, 2,022 were delivered by local authorities, 1,388 were delivered by approved housing bodies and 841 came through Part V agreements”, which provide a percentage of social housing under the Planning and Development Act.

Mr Murphy said Dublin City Council achieved 81 per cent of its housing build target last year.