There is a strong whiff of blame transference in the threat by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to take control of the functions of four Dublin local authorities and provide housing hubs for homeless families. He has demanded that emergency housing for 950 families be provided by the end of this year, along with an additional 150 beds for rough sleepers. The councils were also asked to identify sites and locations for development.
The Government’s social housing policies have failed. And while the Minister blamed local councils for the situation they, in turn, accused his department of causing delays by attempting to micromanage developments. Few observers believe the new housing targets are realistic. But, should he take control of critical housing functions, the Minister will have no place to hide.
Murphy is under intense pressure. Sinn Féin intends to table a motion of no confidence in his performance when the Dáil resumes next week. That motion is unlikely to be carried, however, because of the confidence-and-supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and the Government. Rather than breach the agreement and bring down the Government, Fianna Fáil has said it will seek additional investment in social and affordable housing during pre-budget talks.
Government social housing policy is in a state of flux. It appears to be moving towards a direct-build approach, rather than relying excessively on the private sector. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will announce details of a Land Development Agency this week that is said to represent a step change in Government involvement with the housing market.
Research by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that, because of rising rents, it may be up to 50 per cent cheaper for the Government to build housing directly, rather than rent social housing from the private sector. The Residential Tenancies Board takes a complimentary view and argues that an increase in the supply of not-for-profit accommodation has the capacity to deliver rent stability for all.