Timelines needed for social housing targets, says Focus Ireland

‘A lot of good work is being done, but we need to be realistic,’ says Roughan MacNamara

The State needs timelines for the delivery of social housing targets, according to Roughan MacNamara of Focus Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson/File

The State needs timelines for the delivery of social housing targets, according to Roughan MacNamara of Focus Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson/File

 

The Government needs to introduce timelines to implement social housing targets, according the advocacy manager at homeless charity Focus Ireland.

“If the Government sets targets then it needs to direct action to achieve them, to light a fire,” said Roughan MacNamara.

Mr MacNamara’s comments come in the wake of new homelessness figures being released, which show the number of families in emergency accommodation decreased by 122 across the State last month.

However, national figures as of December show there are still 5,508 homeless adults and 3,079 homeless dependants. The figures include 1,408 homeless families.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr MacNamara said he understood politically why timelines for social housing had not been set out.

“The Government keeps saying they are doing everything in their power, but they’re not,” he said.

Mr McNamara also called on the Government to increase its target for the number of social houses to be built and to introduce timelines to achieve these targets.

Mr McNamara said the decrease shown by the latest homelessness figures was slight, but welcomed.

“A lot of good work is being done, but we need to be realistic. There have been dips before at this time of year,” he said.

He said there was an increase of 17 per cent in the past year in the number of homeless families and the current figure is now double what it was two years ago.

Last year, Focus Ireland housed 700 people, but he said there is still too much reliance on the rental private sector, with 76 per cent being housed in private rented accommodation.

Mr McNamara said Focus Ireland will continue to focus on a change in legislation to make it illegal to evict tenants still within their tenancy agreement because the landlord wants to sell the property.

“We will continue to press for this. It is not some lofty policy. It is one action that doesn’t have to provide one new home but can keep a family in their home.”

‘Opportunistic’

Meanwhile, a call by the Social Democrats for a minimum period of three months for termination of tenancy has been described as opportunistic by the director of the Residential Landlords Association, Fintan McNamara.

“This is politicians looking for cheap publicity. It is opportunistic,” he told Newstalk Breakfast on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall introduced a Bill to strengthen renters’ rights which would increase the length of notice that landlords have to give before ending a tenancy and to increase penalties for those breaking the rules.

Ms Shortall called for a minimum of 90 days termination period, which she said is the norm else where in Europe.

The Dublin Tenants Association said three months should be the minimum.

Mr McNamara said three months was too long as the market can shift in that time. If he were selling a property he said he would leave it vacant for three months rather than “over-holding”.

“Tenants already have huge rights. When politicians start interfering the matter gets worse,” he said.

“People are already finding it difficult to get accommodation because landlords are getting out of the business. We’re the most highly-regulated industry in Europe.”

He said most landlords do not want to break the law and that the Private Rental Tenancies Board had received only 19 complaints about notices and increases in rent controls, 15 of which were deemed invalid.

“If landlords have good tenants they will generally try to keep them.”