Focus Ireland calls for rent freeze to tackle housing crisis
Director of charity says political parties need to focus on humanitarian crisis
Sisters Ava and Teaghan O’Donnell (front) with cousins Josh (left) and Sam Kelly (right) and Sara Marini Lazarov (centre) help launch Focus Ireland’s 5 Point Plan to tackle the housing and homeless crisis at the Dáil. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/ Photocall Ireland
A rent freeze is among the radical steps the next government must take to “get on top of” the housing crisis, Focus Ireland warns.
Speaking at an event in Dublin city centre on Sunday, at which children added their voices to call for urgent action on housing, the charity’s director of advocacy called on political parties to stop “jostling for position” in government formation talks.
Roughan McNamara said people were “sick and tired” of politicians playing party politics in the face of such a humanitarian crisis.
“We’re nearly a month after the election and there haven’t even been real talks on forming a government as yet. While the result from the vote might not have been clear, the message was clear. People want issues like housing sorted and are not interested in parties jostling for position.”
He said the next programme for government must include the provision of 35,000 dwellings a year including 12,000 social homes, and the establishment of a commission on housing.
“A commission would be a consensus approach to housing delivery,” he said. “We want whoever is in power to focus on what’s possible rather than on what is not possible. The previous government was often focusing more on what can’t be done.” Citing Berlin where authorities have just introduced a five-year rent freeze, he said: “That’s the kind of radical approach we need if we are to get on top of this crisis once and for all.”
Also at the event outside Leinster House were Ava O’Donnell (11) and her sister Teaghan (9), pupils at Belgrove National School in Clontarf, Dublin. Ava said she wanted “to say to all TDs they have to do a lot more to help the homelessness”. When she thought of homeless children it made her “feel a bit sad”, she added.
Samuel Kelly (13), a pupil at Clonturk Community College in Drumcondra, said: “I just can’t imagine how they [homeless children] are feeling or what conditions they are in. They don’t have anywhere to call their own. Every time I think of it I just feel so bad. I want the Government to provide more housing for people who don’t have those simple things.”
His cousin, Josh Kelly (17), who attends Ard Scoil Rís on Griffith Avenue, said: “I just think the Government aren’t doing enough. It’s just disgraceful what they [homeless children] have to go through, even the people doing their Leaving Cert staying in hotels. They wouldn’t be able to study. They can’t have a full childhood experience because of what they have to go through.”
The most recent data from the Department of Housing found there were 10,271 people homeless in January – an increase of 540 since December 2019. Of these 3,574 are homeless children.