Call for ‘non-political’ housing solutions

Ruth Coppinger (AAA) says first move should be declaration of national housing emergency

Ruth Coppinger (AAA) said the first call from the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness should be the declaration a “national emergency” that required “emergency legislation”. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ruth Coppinger (AAA) said the first call from the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness should be the declaration a “national emergency” that required “emergency legislation”. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The new Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness must “find solutions in a non-political way”, its members said on Wednesday, before immediately splitting along political lines.

Its 14 members split on who should be its chair and then differed on such issues as whether homeless people should be invited to address them and whether their emphasis should be on social housing or the needs of “young couples trying to get into the market”.

John Curran (Fianna Fáil) was elected chairman, with the support of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil members, while Eoin Ó Broin (Sinn Féin) missed out by one vote, supported by Sinn Féin, Anti-Austerity Alliance and Independents.

Nine weeks

The committee is to sit for nine weeks, at the end of which period it will produce a report to Government. It will sit two days a week and agreed it would focus on 10 strands.

These strands will be the Department for the Environment and local authorities; homelessness; social housing; private housing; the private rented sector; legal issues; Nama; social inclusion issues including Traveller accommodation; the experience of real people impacted by the crises; and how to pay for solutions.

Mick Wallace (Independent) said if the committee was serious about radical new solutions it must consider calling for a “break from Europe” on the fiscal rules that prevent State borrowing “off balance sheet”.

“We are talking €10 billion if we are serious about this. We need a break from the fiscal rules from the Europeans.”

Ruth Coppinger (AAA) said the first call from the committee should be the declaration a “national emergency” that required “emergency legislation”.

“We need emergency legislation to stop people being economically evicted. We need real rent controls and the issue of compulsory purchase orders of homes that are being sold by vulture funds needs to be on the agenda immediately.

‘Radical change’

“We need radical change. What has been proposed before hasn’t been working. This committee has to come out and say that there has to be a public building of social housing on a massive scale.”

Brendan Ryan (Labour) said: “Together with health, this is the most important issue of our time. It’s the only issue that frustrates me at clinics. I cannot give advice to people... and that’s because of the lack of housing supply.”

Barry Cowen (Fianna Fáil) said the issue was “undoubtedly an emergency and should be treated as such”, while Catherine Byrne (Fine Gael) said it was important to find solutions for “young couples finding it very difficult to get into the market”.

The committee will meet on Tuesday at 10.30am, sitting for the day. It will invite Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and representatives of the County and City Managers Association.