Murphy could stop housing delays with stroke of pen, conference told

Some progress is being made in new builds, but it is trickling too slowly, says Cork mayor

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy could stop the bureaucracy delaying housing projects being built “with the stroke of a pen” a housing conference heard.

Lord Mayor of Cork Mick Finn said the homelessness crisis is “very serious” in Cork and the delivery of housing projects there has been delayed as a result of “red tape” in the Department of Housing.

Some 150,000 new homes across Dublin and Cork are projected to be built over the next 20 years under the Land Development Agency announced by the Minister on Thursday.

Any developments built on State lands under the programme must have 30 per cent of affordable homes in addition to the existing 10 per cent already needed for social housing.

“While public money has to be spent wisely, the bureaucracy involved in excessively checking these projects in the department is resulting in great delays across the country. I would ask Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to listen to what is happening in communities from the ground up. While some progress is being made in new builds, it is trickling down too slowly,” said Mr Finn.

Mr Finn called on the Minister to give local authorities more autonomy.

“The Minister can decentralise powers to progress developments locally by cutting the bureaucracy that currently strangles the procurement process . . . and he can do so with the stroke of a pen,” said Mr Finn.

“The delays between the time of approval from City Hall and the granting of funding has meant that projects which should have started in Togher, Ballyphehane, Barrack Street, White Street and High Street have remained in limbo for more than 12 months,” he said.

Focus Ireland’s 12th Annual national conference in Cork City Hall brought together experts and front-line staff to overcome the barriers to solving the housing and homelessness crisis.

The charity said it has helped 12,260 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless between January and August of this year; a five per cent increase rise compared to the 11,661 people helped by the charity in the same period last year.

Economist David McWilliams said a new approach is needed to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.

“The growing population demands that we have to house the equivalent of a town like Clifden every month for the next 50 years. This social and economic task demands we get to the root of the problem,” he said. (According to the 2016 census, Clifden has a population of 2,145)

Mr McWilliams said high rents and house prices are the consequence not the cause of the problem.

“The underlying cause in Ireland is that the interests of landowners have always been put in front of the interests of the citizen. It could be termed ‘radical feudalism’ whereby we have all the rhetoric of a citizens’ republic but an underlying economic structure of land-based feudalism, ”he said.

He said we need to look at what is working in other countries and address issues such as land hoarding to help drive development of housing.

Focus Ireland chief executive Pat Dennigan said the Government targets in Rebuilding Ireland are not sufficient given the scale of the current housing crisis.

“While one or two families secure a home each day at least four more lose their home and become homeless so the crisis continues to deepen,”said Mr Dennigan.

Mr Dennigan said it is vital for all concerned to work together to tackle the barriers to solving the housing and homelessness crisis.

“We all have a duty to the families and people who are homeless, the many thousands at risk to not be playing the ‘blame game’ on this terrible human issue as that acts to create even more barriers to solving the blockages. However, it is equally important that the Government can accept and respond more actively to - constructive criticism and proposed solutions,” he said.