Housing policy condemned as a dramatic failure

People take part in an anti-homelessness demonstration in Dublin city centre (Brian Lawless/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

An independent think tank has labelled the Irish government’s housing policy a dramatic failure and a national emergency.

Social Justice Ireland published their National Social Monitor for Autumn 2018 on Tuesday, which highlighted the repercussions of the crisis.

Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said that Ireland is in the midst of a national emergency.

He added: “The Government has failed to respond to our nation’s housing crisis.

“Mortgage arrears are again increasing, there are almost 87,000 households on social housing waiting lists, and 10,000 homeless.

“This is a national emergency.”

“Of those 10,000 homeless, 3,600 are children. Over half of the 87,000 households on the social housing waiting lists are families,” he said.

“The impact of homelessness and precarious housing on our nation’s children will be felt for generations to come.

“This is both unacceptable and unnecessary at a time when resources are available to make a real impact on the housing crisis.”

The group made a number of recommendations to tackle the crisis, including increasing building of social housing, and providing greater support for those at risk of becoming homeless.

Mortgage arrears in Ireland increased in the first quarter of 2018, currently 71,833 mortgages are in arrears across country – the highest value of arrears since the beginning of the crash.

Colette Bennett, a research and policy analyst for the group, says government action is required to stop further loan sales by banks to vulture funds.

She said: “The majority of the €2.9 billion arrears is owed by households in late stage mortgage arrears.

“The government needs to intervene to ensure that mortgage lenders are encouraged to offer a full suite of options, including Mortgage to Rent, and that local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies are properly resourced to support these offers.”

The report comes as another political blow for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who has come under intense criticism over the summer as homeless figures continue to rise.

Sinn Fein confirmed on Monday that it will table a motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy in the coming weeks.

Speaking at a meeting of the party’s elected representatives in Co Cavan on Monday, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Murphy is out of touch, and had failed in the role.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheál Martin confirmed his party will not support any no confidence motion.

However, Mr Martin added that the Government’s policies are not working, and he was disappointed with the performance on health and housing.

Minister Murphy responded to Ms McDonald’s comments in a series of tweets, saying: “SF has floated motion of NC [no confidence] a number of times – they do it to get attention and headlines for themselves.

“We are in a minority Govt so SF should spend time b4 Dáil comes back getting the maj[ority] of Oir[eachtas] to back their big housing plan – they won’t do that because they do not have one.”

Government figures show there are 9,891 homeless people living in Ireland, a rise of 19 from June.

Other issues highlighted in the Monitor include the need to combat social isolation in rural communities; the rising number of people underemployed; the widening gap in income distribution; and the need to increase Ireland’s tax take to resource the necessary investment.

Social Justice Ireland provides independent social analysis, their National Social Monitor is published three times a year.