Over 500 old convents, hotels and other commercial buildings are being assessed to see if they could be used to house Ukrainian refugees, according to the Housing Minister.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Darragh O’Brien said a cap on the amount of refugees Ireland will accept is “off the table”.
He said the government is also considering a system of payments for families who agree to take refugees into their own homes.
Meanwhile, Cabinet will tomorrow be asked to approve updates to the Fair Deal scheme which could see up to 8,000 empty homes brought back into the rental market.
Minister O’Brien told Ciara that the Ukraine refugee crisis was always going to be challenge – but there is no prospect of limiting the amount of people Ireland will accept.
“That is off the table,” he said.
“We have been very clear through the Taoiseach that Government has made a decision on behalf of the Irish people that those fleeing this terrible attack and war in Ukraine, vested upon them through no fault of their own by Putin and by Russia, will be given safe harbour and refuge here in Ireland.”
The Minister said housing refugees was “always going to be a challenge”, noting that it is impossible to estimate how many people will be arriving from one day to the next.
“There is no question that many of those who are arriving on our shores now are going to be here for a considerable length of time and we want to make sure they are looked after as best as possible,” he said.
He said his department is looking at ways of finding new medium to longer-term accommodation for all those that arrive.
“Over 500 significant properties across the country have been assessed by three retired CEOs from our local authorities,” he said.
“We have been bringing back expertise that has left the system recently and I would expect that final report this week.
“We will then need to look at how we can speed up those refurbishments. “Things around procurement for arguments’ sake.
“We are going to have to fast-track that and there are some emergency measures we can use to make sure we are speeding up that process substantially.
“Same goes for planning by the way because what I am also doing is looking for additional lands above and beyond what has been identified already for affordable and social housing.”
He said the Childrens’ Minister Roderic O’Gorman is considering a payment to families that are hosting refugees from Ukraine.
Asked whether the scheme would be similar to the payment scheme for foster families he said he is “not privy to the details quite yet” and said Minister O’Gorman would bring forward the proposals in due course.
The Minister also confirmed that he will bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow on changes to the Fair Deal scheme that he believes could bring up to 8,000 empty homes back to the rental market.
He said he hopes to see the legislation in place by the summer.
You can listen back here: