Money "on the table" to deal with housing crisis - Kenny

The Taoiseach came under fire in the Dáil today as 20 homeless families looked on from the public gallery

Money "on the table" to deal with housing crisis - Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny holds a joint press conference with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on the second day of his visit to the US | Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

The Taoiseach has insisted that there is enough money “on the table" for local authorities to buy and build more houses.

Enda Kenny came under fire in the Dáil today as 20 homeless families looked on from the public gallery for leaders questions.

Mr Kenny said the government had allocated “serious resources” for tackling the homelessness crisis in the budget this year with €100m earmarked for homeless services and €1.3bn for the overall housing budget.

He said the government has put €5.3bn on the table to build new houses between now and 2021 and insisted that the housing crisis is the result “of an economy that collapsed and a construction sector that vanished.”

He insisted that the government strategy is delivering - adding that “construction is actually underway in quite a lot of places.”

In denial

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Taoiseach was “in denial” and said that the crisis stemmed from a 2011 government decision to stop building council housing and rely on the private sector.

He said the plan has been a “disastrous failure” adding that the housing minister’s Rebuilding Ireland plan had “expanded that misguided, disastrously failing policy.”

He called on the Taoiseach to start a compulsory purchase programme to buy empty properties and buildings – and order NAMA to use all of its resources to provide social housing.

Mr Kenny said local authorities already have the necessary resources available to them:

“They have been given money to buy houses; they have been provided money by the tax payer to build houses,” he said.

“They have been given incentives to get into sites that have been inaccessible for building.

“They have the opportunity to provide public land that they have in their possession to have private builders come in and build houses for them.

The root cause of the problem actually is not what you say - it is a lack of supply of houses.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said he is “sick and tired” of hearing that it takes time to fix the homelessness and housing emergency and called on the Taoiseach to explain to the families in the public gallery how the government’s housing solutions are working.

He again insisted that the move away from direct council housing construction and towards reliance on the private sector had generated the crisis.

Lack of council houses

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that the state is failing homeless families and children.

He said the number of children availing of lunch services at the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People had risen 74% between 2013 and 2016.

He said workers at the centre are extremely worried about the “debilitating and damaging impact that emergency accommodation environment has on the children's development.”

“Housing policies are not impacting on this daily reality, which is getting worse,” he said. “It is a fact that we are not building enough council houses.”

He said it is “appalling” that there appears to be some ideological opposition within government to building council houses.

“Houses are not being built fast enough and the emergency accommodation crisis is getting worse for children,” he said. “This should be our overall priority.”

He said there is a “terrible disconnect between the official rhetoric and the reality” when it comes to the housing crisis adding that the latest figures from the census show that only 2% of the houses occupied nationwide are new builds.

He said the government’s housing response "in no way" corresponds with the scale of the crisis.