Housing crisis to continue to get worse until 2023, Oireachtas told

Local authorities criticised as ‘the single player that is refusing to come on the pitch’

The Government’s “most optimistic statement” on the housing crisis reveals that the problem will get worse at least until 2022, Focus Ireland has said.

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said the Department of Housing’s target of 48,000 new home completions by 2023 would be the first year when housing supply would exceeded demand.

The figures, which Mr Allen said were recently provided by the Department of Housing to the Fiscal Advisory Council, were the first time he had seen an admission that the housing and homelessness situation would get worse over the coming years.

Mr Allen told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing there remained a question mark over the status of the 48,000 homes which would be completed in 2023. He said if the homelessness problem was to be eased a significant number of the 48,000 new homes would have to be social and affordable housing. But if the homes were mainly sold at market value then the impact on homelessness would be a lot less significant.

He was concerned new housing provision would be more market-oriented as “the single player that is refusing to come on the pitch is the local authorities sector”, which in the past had provided up to a quarter of the State’s housing stock.

Mr Allen was joined at the Oireachtas Committee on Housing by the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon. The ombudsman said there was increasing acceptance of the potential for psychological problems brought about by the trauma being faced by children in their first 1,000 days. He said the formation of a child’s brain could be adversely affected by stress and picking up on parental stress.

Vacant housing

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd (FG) agreed that the local authority sector could do more. He said Louth County Council had an officer employed to identify vacant housing and some 100 properties were brought back into use this way.

Deputy Pat Casey (FF) told the committee he had witnessed the trauma of homelessness when a family was brought “late at night” to the hotel he owns in the Wicklow Mountains. He saw them “getting up very early in the morning” to be brought back to Dublin, and was told later that day that they would be back again that night. “It is an horrendous experience that these people are going through.”

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan said he had no doubt the treatment of homeless families and children would be the subject of a future redress scheme. He had seen a weeping homeless woman from Bray being comforted in Leinster House by her 14-year-old, while the woman’s local authority told him she had mental health issues and was trouble.

Rebecca Keatinge, managing solicitor at the Mercy Law Resource Centre, called for the “discretion” that local authorities had in housing the homeless to be replaced by a “duty”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist