The Government has taken "very radical" steps to address the housing crisis over the past three years, according to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.
The number of homeless children has gone up by 92 per cent in that period – from 1,994 to 3,821 – and the total number of people in emergency accommodation has increased by 73 per cent, from 5,963 in March 2016 to 10,305 in March of this year.
Speaking on Friday at the opening of 31 social housing apartments in Dublin provided by Focus Ireland, Mr Murphy said that, since 2016, measures taken included the introduction of rent-pressure zones, fast-track planning for larger developments and a vacant site levy.
These had led to more houses being built and greater protections for tenants in the private rental sector, he said.
“We’ve done very radical things in housing if you look at where we were three years ago,” he said. “We didn’t have rent caps, and they are working. The Opposition wants us to strengthen them in fact. If they weren’t working the Opposition would have wanted them abandoned.”
He said reliance on the private rental sector to accommodate social housing tenants would continue, though he would continue to monitor it “to ensure all necessary protections are there in place” for tenants.
“But we also need to recognise as well that we need landlords. We need to have people letting out properties for people to move into,” he said.
About 70 people, including more than 30 children, will move into the new apartments in the Liberties area in coming days. These include 15 families leaving homelessness and five single people being housed under the Housing First programme, which sees long-term rough-sleepers placed directly into housing with “wrap-around” supports.
Among those moving in is “Sarah” (30) from Dublin who has been homeless for five years following the breakdown of a relationship which left her unable to cover rent on her own.
‘Get your life together’
“It affected me mentally, emotionally, physically. I didn’t know if I was coming or going,” she says. She was placed in St George’s Hill supported accommodation, owned by Focus Ireland, where she was able to “rebuild myself”.
“If I hadn’t had George’s Hill I would have had to go to a hostel. That would have been a totally different situation. You need a home for stability, to get your life together.”
She is now working for Focus Ireland in its research and administration sections. She moved into her new one-bed apartment, having been on the council housing list for nine years.
“It feels great, because I don’t have to ever worry about a landlord giving me notice to get out. It is a huge relief not having to worry about losing my home again. It’s just such a relief to have a home.”