State ‘about a month’ behind in getting homeless out of hotels

Minister of State Damien English insists plans to deal with housing crisis will work

The Government will be "about a month" late in meeting its targets to get homeless families living in hotels out of them, Minister of State for Housing Damien English has said.

Mr English conceded on Sunday that the July 1st deadline set to address the crisis had not been met.

Latest figures show the number of homeless children has continued to rise despite the efforts of authorities to address the situation.

According to the Department of Housing, there were 2,777 children, in 1,312 families, living in emergency accommodation across the State during the week of May 22nd to 28th.

In Dublin, there were 2,266 children, in 1,099 families, in emergency accommodation. A total of 647 homeless families in Dublin were living in commercial hotels.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Mr English said there was a commitment to a "massive" social housing programme and some €5.5 billion was committed to that.

More than 600 sites had been identified for social housing with a view to delivering 10,000 units, he added. Mr English said between 2,000 and 3,000 would be delivered this year.

‘Massive commitment’

“It is a massive commitment and it will solve the problem. But it just can’t happen in six months; I wish it could,” he said.

The Minister accepted that the deadline for getting families out of hotels had been Saturday.

“We’ll be about a month late in reaching our target. But the target will be met.”

Mr English said the Government was hoping that “by the end of July, maybe early August, everybody in those hotels will be out of them bar exceptional circumstances”.

He said that since the commitment had been made more than a year ago at least 800 families had left hotels and more than 400 people who had presented as homeless were prevented from going into hotels.

“So we are making progress here and we will get ahead of these trends and if we didn’t set those targets that would not have happened. So the target-setting was right. If we miss it by a couple of weeks or by a month, I wish we didn’t, but the main thing is we are staying on this journey and get people out of hotels and stop using hotels.”

Mr English also insisted the help-to-buy scheme had helped with a supply of housing for first-time buyers.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry told the same programme the market had created the problem and he said a "massive programme" of local authority housing and affordable housing was needed.

This would bring down the price of houses more generally because it would seriously reduce the demand and create “a downward drag” on prices, he said.

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien said supply was the "biggest issue". Young couples who were working could not get on the ladder, he said.

Mr O’Brien said he believed the problem could be tackled on a cross-party basis. It was within the gift of the Government, he said, to “turn the tap off on evictions”.

To have well over 2,000 families living in temporary accommodation was “absolutely shameful”, he said.

The increases in the number of homeless families emerged last week, just before the July 1st deadline to move all homeless families out of commercial hotels, which had been set by the former minister for housing Simon Coveney.

His successor Eoghan Murphy abandoned this target within days of taking office.

Homeless charities have described the continued increases as “unacceptable” and have called for “more aggressive” solutions.