Government housing strategy should be scrapped, says McVerry

Campaigner says home repossessions could make shortage of accommodation even worse

 Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said: ‘A 12-year-old child could tell the Government the strategy is not working.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said: ‘A 12-year-old child could tell the Government the strategy is not working.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Government needs to acknowledge its housing strategy is not working, abandon it and declare a national emergency, the housing campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.

Addressing a rally near Leinster House on Tuesday, Fr McVerry said the housing emergency could be about to get significantly worse.

He said if Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy was a chief executive in the private sector he would be told to “produce another plan or you are sacked”.

Fr McVerry said that since the government introduced its homeless housing strategy “the number of homeless people and families had gone up and up”.

“A 12-year-old child could tell the Government the strategy is not working.”

He said there were two problems. One was reliance on the private sector to house people. But he said the private sector was part of the problem, not the solution.

The second was that in 1985 the state built 6,900 social houses and in 2015 just 75 were built.

He said there were 180,000 empty homes across the country. “Some of them were not stable. Some of them were in areas where nobody wants to live, like Leitrim. I hope there is nobody from Leitrim here”. But he said “many of them are suitable and I think we need to take over any suitable home and use it for housing”.

Fr McVerry said the Government needed to pass legislation to make it illegal to put people to on to the street. It was immoral he said “and it should be made illegal”.

He warned that future home repossessions had the potential to significantly worsen the problem. “There are 47,000 houses in mortgage arrears of more than two years.”

“Unless we address this crisis quickly there could be a catastrophe,” he said.

Fr McVerry was followed by policy analyst Dr Rory Hearne who in a wide ranging and passionate address said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had lost the moral authority to govern. He said the Government had recently spoken of putting €1 billion “into the rainy day fund” while out here there is “a f***ing flood”.

The rally was organised by the group Inner City Helping Homeless.

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar highlighted the provision of 200 emergency beds in Dublin and said a further €18 million had been added to the budget for homelessness services next year to bring it to €118 million.

Mr Varadkar said that the number of families in bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation was down substantially with the development of family hubs.