Charity Hits Out As More Families Enter Homelessness

A Dublin based homelessness charity is urging political parties to unite to address the housing crisis.

Focus Ireland made the call as it was revealed that at least three families enter homelessness everyday in Ireland.

The charity has called on all political parties to take a more honest and collaborative approach to tackling the housing and homelessness crisis, including making a commitment to participate in a 'Commission on Housing' after the general election to help end the repeated cycles of housing boom and crisis.

Launching its #FocusOnHomes campaign to inform and encourage voters to use their vote on the housing and homelessness issue, the charity said that the tendency of all parties to completely denounce every aspect of each other's track record and policies during an election debate is not helpful in finding real solutions.

Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy in Focus Ireland said: "Housing and homelessness has been among the top themes of the election so far, but voters are none the wiser about the choices on offer. The housing and homelessness problem remains enormous and challenging, but to claim that nothing has been achieved is as misleading as to claim that the problem is now under control. To find the best way for forward we need all parties to be more honest about both progress and the shortfalls of the last few years. Approved Housing Bodies, some local authorities and the systems that support their work have made great progress over recent years. To dismiss everything that has been achieved just makes the electorate feel that the problem is unsolvable when we should be talking about what we need to do to solve it.

"We need to build at least 35,000 new homes every year, and that is a demanding target. The different political parties have different ambitions and approaches to addressing the housing issue, and these different approaches need to be debated so that voters can decide which they believe are the most credible. But any effective programme to end the current housing and homelessness will require support from other parties in a coalition and broad public support over priorities for expenditure, taxation and planning, these needs to be reflected in the debate."

An example of the collaborative approach is the proposal for a Commission on Housing, which would establish a broad consensus on how we will supply affordable, secure housing in the long-term. The Commission on Housing is designed not just to help us out of the current crisis but also to ensure that we are not sowing the seeds of the next boom and the next crisis.

The proposal for a 'Commission on Housing' emerged from a diverse group of economists, housing policy experts, social housing providers, private developers, senior public servants, people with long experience of public affairs, who met last year to discuss a longer-term perspective on the current crisis. The group, chaired by experienced public policy expert, Eddie Molly, came to the view that the key to a lasting solution to the housing crisis is not a particular set of ideas or proposals but rather an effective deliberative process involving a broad range of interests, professionals, people with specialist knowledge, political parties and, of course, citizens.

Mike Allen explained: "A Commission on Housing is by no means unique – the same self-defeating disagreement existed in many other economic areas – corporation tax, the role of multi-nationals, unemployment – and were brought not into consensus but into sufficiently broad agreement that real progress has been possible. The same has been true of social issues such as same-sex marriage and the most contentious of all, the national question. But nothing of this nature has ever been attempted on housing, which is so basic to our individual and social well-being – and which we are so badly failing to solve."

Focus Ireland is also calling on all parties to commit to put in place a specific strategy on Family Homelessness and set a cast iron deadline that no family or individual will remain homeless for longer than six months. The charity is also calling for a new concentration on youth housing and homelessness and recognition of the right to housing in the Constitution.

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