The Irish Times view on homelessness: a dreadful milestone
It is time to evaluate the Government’s excessive dependence on private developers
It is not good enough for Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to lament the growing number of homeless families as ‘hugely disappointing’ while, at the same time, claiming the Government’s housing policy is working. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
It is not good enough for Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to lament the growing number of homeless families as “hugely disappointing” while at the same time claiming the Government’s housing policy is working. That five-year policy, Rebuilding Ireland, is now three years old and while the supply of new homes has risen, the numbers fall well short of what is required. It is time to evaluate the Government’s excessive dependence on private developers.
The number of homeless people, last February, exceeded 10,000 for the first time, including 3,784 children. It is a dreadful figure. But homeless numbers have been nudging that 10,000 mark for the past year and did so at the height of the building boom in 2000. It reflects not just a housing shortage but social housing neglect.
More homes are required. But the Government tends to favour the construction of affordable homes over social housing. The first “cost rental” scheme planned by its new Land Development Agency in Dublin envisages the construction of 300 affordable homes; 200 social homes and 100 for private sale. That approach does not reflect the scale of the social housing problem.
Considerable foot-dragging has taken place over granting the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) additional powers to impose fines on landlords for breaches of Government rent controls and the wrongful eviction of tenants. Murphy has undertaken to bring proposals to Cabinet next week to strengthen protections for tenants and to prioritise the passage of RTB legislation involving independent arbitration and penalties. Those would be welcome developments.
Focus Ireland has identified eviction as the primary cause for the worsening homelessness situation. Some unscrupulous landlords are using proposed property sales or refurbishment plans as justification for serving notice on tenants with capped rents with a view to achieving future, higher prices. As the acquisition of entire apartment buildings by investment funds becomes the norm, long-term legal security for compliant tenants – as in other European countries – is needed.