Rural regions have their own housing issues, chair warns

Housing boss says local authorities will help Dublin homeless but face existing pressures

A protest against homelessness in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

A protest against homelessness in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Local authorities around the State “will not be found wanting in doing everything they can” to help address Dublin’s homelessness crisis, the chair of the City and County Manager Association’s housing committee has pledged.

Eugene Cummins, who is also chief executive of Monaghan County Council, warned, however, that local authorities were “every day” dealing with housing crises within their own areas.

Mr Cummins was responding to Department of the Environment proposals that homeless Dublin families could be relocated in rural communities.

Work on a rural relocation scheme is at an early stage, with discussions on how such a scheme would work being led by senior department officials and involving the City and County Manager Association (CCMA), the HSE and Dublin City Council.

Obligations

Mr Cummins confirmed the proposed scheme had been discussed by the CCMA’s housing committee a number of times .

“We are very much aware of our obligations to address homelessness. We are dealing with it every day in our own areas.”

But he said local authorities were coming under increasing pressure, with people fleeing domestic violence, leaving prison, leaving State care and losing their private rented accommodation.

“No one will be left without a bed or without food, but we cannot be all things to all people,” he said.

He said there were fewer vacant dwellings around the country than people might think.

“The notion that there are a large number of void units across the country [is wrong]; there may have been a number of years ago but that number has been significantly reduced.”

He added: “Homelessness and the causes of the housing crisis are extremely complex and the accumulation of many factors.

“It’s very difficult to take an urban family and just put them in a rural location and expect that will be a solution.”

Opposition politicians had a mixed reaction to the proposal. Clare Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said rural relocation programmes had worked well in the past but it was important the “right family is placed in the right location”.

“The social as well as the housing needs of the family need to be considered very carefully. And of course there are housing shortages already, particularly around Ennis.”

In Wexford, Fianna Fáil councillor Malcolm Byrne said the proposal showed “a complete lack of understanding of the housing challenge outside Dublin”.

“We have over 3,700 people on Co Wexford’s housing list – almost 900 in the Gorey area alone.

“Weekly, I [hear] more stories of appalling housing conditions – of families living in overcrowded conditions, of those being unable to afford the rent, of those in substandard housing,”he said.