18/11/2015

Govt's Housing Record A 'Spectacular Failure' - SF

The government's record on housing has been described as a "spectacular failure", dependent on the private market to provide a solution that "will never come".

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson, Dessie Ellis, made the comments during a Private Members debate in the Dáil.

"This government have failed and failed spectacularly and the people who have suffered are the most vulnerable and worse off in our society," Deputy Ellis said.

"We have over 130,000 households in need of housing in this state. That is just less than the entire number of people currently housed by local authorities. That figure represent families, couples, single people and their children all in need of a secure, adequate and affordable home.

"It is an absolute scandal that a government would preside over a situation where about 8% of the state's households are in housing need and do so for so long with so little meaningful action. These are families living in cramped, damp, under managed, over-priced private accommodation, or sleeping on sofas, spare beds or the floors of their friends and family. For years this has been ignored while thousands upon thousands suffered these kinds of conditions. When the government finally admitted there was a problem and that they had some responsibility to deal with it they developed their Housing Strategy 2020.

"It also worth noting that less than a third of the first tranche of the money promised for housing has actually been put towards housing construction with €1.2 billion being ear marked for encouraging the private sector to provide social leasing, rent supplement, RAS and HAP units for rent at near market rates. Of the paltry 1750 homes promised to be built by the beginning of 2018, just 167 were planned for Dublin. The government press release failed to highlight this of course. The reality behind the grand plan of the government was more of the same. To throw good money after bad at the private sector in the hope the housing crisis would just go away. This policy of removing the state from the provision of housing was of course the major contributor to the housing crisis in the first place.

"The private sector cannot and will not provide the solution to the housing crisis and the expectation that it will have exacerbated the crisis to the point of a national emergency where rents are out of control and 1500 children lay their heads down in emergency accommodation each night in this state. The failure to deliver housing by the government through local authorities has led to soaring private rents as demand has risen, but private construction has all but ground to a halt with pace of new private builds showing no sign of the capacity or the will to deliver. They have been given everything they might want but nothing has sparked them into action.

"Another major issue has been rents which have directly led to people becoming homeless, especially those who had dole or rent supplement cuts visited upon them by the Labour Party. Daft figures released today show the fastest increases in rent since the boom in the run up to the governments calamitous rent measures. Major urban centres have seen rent increase by between 9-13.5% in a year also with no sign of more places available. The obvious reaction of landlords to desperately rush to hike rents future on their tenants before the government implement a very limp delay in rent reviews has only led to more hardship and shown up the ineffectiveness of this bare minimum response from government.

"Instead of rent controls which would have tackled existing unaffordable rents; instead of rent certainty which would have ensure stability in rent levels into the future by limiting the rates of increases; we have gotten Minister Kelly's own brand of rent regulation which equates to very little. Though we're glad there is something.

"What the spin doctors in the Customs House call a rent freezes amount to a delay in rent reviews by 12 months; the definition of kicking the can down the road. This will be welcome to some tenants in the short term but many others have already received their rent increases to mitigate for it. We need major annual investment in local authority built social housing to deliver at least 7000 units a year. 

"We need to use Strategic Investment Funds money to raise capital for housing investment also as has been done for the private sector. We need rent controls and we need to increase rent supplement rates in tandem.

"We need an approach to the housing crisis which prioritises the provision of housing over spin and bluster."

(MH/CD)

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