The housing crisis and local authorities
Sir, – It beggars belief that the Government is considering establishing a national housing authority to address the housing crisis. Previous governments established the Health Service Executive to address the crisis in the health service and both the crisis and the HSE are still with us.
Too many politicians and civil servants have an apparent addiction to setting up new centralised authorities, which consume additional public money, take more powers from local government and do almost nothing to fix the problems they were supposedly established to solve. It is hard to see what functions, if any, local authorities will have once the current centralising drive has run its course.
The solution is straightforward – a large-scale programme of public housing provided by the local councils, but adequately financed and supported by central government.
A new public authority is simply a case of moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic after the iceberg has already made contact. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – While it is welcome that the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has called together all city and county council chief executives to seek to address the housing crisis, it is notable that he and his department did not seek the input of elected members of local authorities nor our representative organisations.
As councillors, we have long been critical of the rhetoric of the department which, in spite of strong words, has not made resources available to councils and continues to seek to remove powers from councils to deal with housing.
We need to work in partnership, and the Minister needs to ask why his department is not delivering for local government. – Is mise,
Cllr MALCOLM BYRNE,
Sir, – Talking of a possible State body for housing at this stage is a case of putting the cart before the horse, creating another expensive quango with a national remit and removing the provision of social housing from the one body that knows the scene at local level, the local authorities, which have staff capable of discharging the function provided adequate funding is provided by Government. Social housing has been provided by local authorities for decades but is dependent on funding by the State.
What is required at this juncture is for Government to decide now on how much money it can afford to spend on social housing over the next few years, how many houses this will provide, decide on the criteria for the distribution of this money to local authorities, provide the money in a ring-fenced grant, decide on the repayment criteria payable by tenants, and refund the total sum collected yearly to the Department of Housing. It should introduce conditions to apply to local authorities including, above all, one whereby social houses may not be sold. – Yours, etc,