Census 2016 figures and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
You may recall the Census 2016 figures which showed 183, 312 vacant houses in Ireland – excluding vacant holiday homes.
And yesterday’s figures showing 8,160 people were registered as homeless in the last week of July.
Further to this…
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke to journalists following the emergency housing summit in Custom House this morning.
While speaking to them, Mr Varadkar raised the subject of vacant houses.
“On the vacant house tax, that is something that’s under consideration but, again, a very interesting discussion with the Chief Executives today if you take for example Fingal or Galway where they’ve actually gone out to the individual houses to see how many are vacant while the CSO may say there’s a certain number and geocodes say there’s another number, when the council staff have actually gone out to the houses and apartments and knocked on doors, they’ve found that the numbers that are really vacant are actually much smaller than any of the figures show.”
Where an “emergency housing summit” is taking place in which the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will meet CEOs of the local authorities across Ireland and their housing personnel.
And further to the Department of Housing releasing figures yesterday which show 8,160 homeless people – more than a third of whom are children – were living in emergency accommodation in the last week of July.
Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Helping Homeless, a voluntary group which has been helping homeless people in Dublin for the past four years, confronted Mr Murphy.
From their exchange:
Anthony Flynn: “We’ve looked for several meetings with you.”
Eoghan Murphy: “We have a huge amount of people…”
Talk over each other
Flynn: “We understand that. But ou’re bringing the CEOs in here today. The people who are actually on the ground, doing the work on a nightly basis, that are looking at these people that are dying on our streets. We’ve had five deaths in less than a week and your office has failed to communicate to us, with regard to…hang on, let me finish.”
Murphy: “Yeah, sorry.”
Flynn: “Not only the work that we’re doing for the last four years on the streets but the My Name Is campaign has travelled this country in regards to child homelessness and the unprecedented levels of child homelessness that are happening at the moment. And yet we haven’t had the respect of a reply from your office.”
“Your predecessor Simon Coveney would meet me in the Gresham Hotel on a weekly basis to discuss issues in regards to homelessness, yet your office couldn’t do that.”
“Now we’re here today, you’re calling in the CEOs of the local council. We’ve heard from the Housing SPC chair that the council haven’t got the money to build, that your department is not releasing that money to build housing, ok.”
“Now social housing can’t be built because the CEOs haven’t got a mandate because they haven’t got money.”
“So if they haven’t got the money, how are they expected to build.This meeting today could be a waste of time in our opinion if the CEOs are not being given the money from your department.”
“Your department have consistently relied on the voluntary housing bodies, the voluntary housing bodies to build and look for money from Europe to build because your department doesn’t want to have to take that money.”
“Or Paschal Donoghue doesn’t want to have to take that money down because it affects your GDP and it affects the market.”
Murphy: “Can I respond? There’s not a problem with funding at all. This year we’re going to build four times as many social houses that we built in 2015 and we have more money to re-prioritise that into social housing as well.
“The local authorities have to work with the housing bodies to actually build new houses and that’s what we want to do. Hold on, I’m here talking to you now and I’ll talk to anyone about the issue but I’m working on this every day.”
“It’s a top priority for the Government and you need to understand that.”
“The reason the local authority chiefs are coming in today is because I’m funding them directly and they’re directly responsible to me. We’re building social housing and dealing with this crisis and that’s what we’re talking about today.”
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy at the launch of 63-house build in Carlow last month
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
RTÉ’s Education Correspondent Emma O’Kelly spoke to a homeless family who is living in a hotel.
One person Ms O’Kelly spoke to from the family was a young female student.
The girl told Ms O’Kelly:
“Definitely, the past year, it’s been a very huge eye-opener. It’s a huge culture shock and a huge change to how it was for us.
“It’s hard to fit in and to find someone who will accept you and your troubles and, if you get to the stage where you can open up about this situation and the homeless, it’s still the sense will they still be your friend? Or will they find you scum?”
“It’s hard to pick the good people from the bad people and then finding it hard to come out to teachers you’ve never met before… It took me about five or 10 minutes there earlier on to say that I was homeless to my deputy principal. She kept saying to me, ‘take your time’, ‘take your time’ and I just couldn’t say it.
“I could barely say it to her when I did say it so it’s very hard.”
Asked what she would like for her and her family, she said:
“To get our home, to get our space back. Even if it’s, I don’t know, if it was just our privacy back, it’d be ten times better than what we have now because there is no privacy here.
“There’s no time, peaceful time.”
Asked what she would say to either a Government minister or the Taoiseach if she had the opportunity, she said:
“Give us our home, please. We need it. We need it as soon as possible.”
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy spoke to Áine Lawlor during News At One.
From the interview…
Aine Lawlor: “You can’t give her a home, can you? Right now?”
Eoghan Murphy: “I think, Aine, the piece that was broadcast this morning, on Morning Ireland, which we just heard a clip from there, it’s probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.
“We have a crisis in homelessness and we’ve known that for quite some time and we’re putting in a huge amount of effort and resources to try and help these families who are in this absolutely appalling situation.
“Now those people who’ve been working on the frontline, in a voluntary sector or in local authorities or with me in my department, to try and find these solutions, they’ve heard these stories. I’ve had the opportunity myself to meet with some of these families.
“But the bravery they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstances, I think was very brave but very important that people understand what these families are facing because…”
Lawlor: “The problem is not understanding, Minister. The problem is we have a bright, capable young woman living in these circumstances, who believes other people see her as scum because Government can’t deliver on housing and we have, you know, you can say we’re making all kinds of improvements, but are you not just drowning a little bit more slowly, is that not the case?”
Murphy: “With respect Aine, I don’t think everyone does understand what these families are going through, who are living in hotels, and who are going to school, their first day back and actually said, coming out to her deputy principal about the difficult circumstances she is facing, because the amount of feedback is generated already this morning, into the department.”
“We have a particular problem here that has been growing over the course of the year, as more and more families have presented with homelessness. ”
Lawlor: “It’s up by 30% in one year. No matter what you do, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.”
Murphy: “Well, thankfully, we’ve been able to put in resources to at least make sure they’re not out rough on the streets, we’re able to put them into hotels and put the wraparound services around those hotels. What we’re trying to do is move these families then into permanent sustainable, long-term accommodation. So, if you look at the 12 months, up until the end of May, 1,200 families were removed from hotels, or prevented from entering them. At the end of May though, we still had 650 families still in hotels.
“We have a pathway for those families out of those hotels into social housing homes, into the private rental sector and into hubs.
“But people continue to present and that’s the purpose, I suppose of the summit that was organised over the summer, is to bring the local authorities together, to make sure we are going to be able to deal with this problem.”
Murphy: “We have build more social housing homes and we’re doing that. And at the moment, I’m in negotiations with Paschal Donoghue about how we’re going to, hopefully, scale up our ambition in that regard but there’s not much I can say about that at the moment because we’re at that sensitive stage of those negotiations but in a few weeks time I’ll be announcing my review of Rebuilding Ireland which is a plan which is working. But to see how we can improve it.”
Murphy: “Earlier this summer, when I talked about enhanced CPO [Compulsory Purchase Orders] powers, another broadcaster compared me to Adolf Hitler. I mean we have a crisis here, we need to look at things that maybe we haven’t looked at before to make sure we can properly house families like those that were on the radio this morning.”
Murphy: “There are a lot of vested interests in this area. If I was to start flagging things to you now, that we’re going to do in the next three or four weeks, they would rally against, potentially try and stop the things that we want to do so I have to be careful…”
Further to news that housing minister Eoghan Murphy wants changes to Fair Deal to “encourage and facilitate the use of vacant properties of those in nursing home care” in a new vacant homes strategy…
Michael Kearney writes:
Good afternoon. I am a 75 year old Pensioner and totally non-political. I don’t comment on Government or ministerial matters as that is normally well covered, however, I am incensed at a new quirky turn that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has taken .
I have been following his pronouncements about all of the controls he is going to inflict on landbank holders, housing stock holders and developers. Now he has decided to turn his attention to the really bad Boys and Girls of the Nursing Homes.
It seems to me that Minister Murphy has woken up to the fact that the developers, stock and land holders have him back in his box. What is it with this country? Nobody at the top and I mean NOBODY has the real desire to make any real changes. We have seen it week in and out.
We have the Gardai sorted out, we have the HSE sorted out, we have this one and that one sorted out. Then we are told that ” Ah, we cant actually do that “. I totally abhor President Trump but there are times when I wonder.
New Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Focus Ireland founder Sister Stanislaus and CEO Ashley Balbirnie at Harold’s Cross this morning
Remember former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s claim that he would ensure all homeless families would be out of hotel accommodation by July 1?
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said the Government is going to miss its deadline of 1 July for moving homeless families from temporary hotel accommodation.
He said the 650 families involved will be moved straight into family hubs or other accommodation or they will be notified in writing of where they are going in the coming weeks.
…Mr Murphy was speaking at the opening of 28 housing units in the grounds of Harold’s Cross Hospice in Dublin. The units are owned and operated by Focus Ireland and built on a site donated by the Sisters of Charity.
Mr Murphy said that the review of Rebuilding Ireland is continuing and it is a good time to look at what new measures or powers might be needed. He said the Taoiseach has told him to think big and no idea is too radical.
“The issue of Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street which is currently being modified to become a family hub to house homeless families. A constituent contacted my office yesterday, very distressed, that she, along with her two young boys, were placed in Lynam’s Hotel late on Monday night. They arrived to find the place without running water or electricity in the room and she felt very unsafe.”
“I understand that Lynam’s is being offered as a late-night solution when no other family accommodation can be found, instead of sending families to Garda stations as has happened recently. Yet, Lynam’s is still a building site.
“Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Helping Homelessness charity, went to the property yesterday with Dublin Fire Brigade and I understand that a full inspection is being carried out today. And there’s a photo on social media of a fire escape chained shut and I understand members of the fire brigade did declare the building a fire hazard last night.
“But, in the light of this, and I also understand young students and family, including four children, minister, were today evacuated from 24, Mountjoy Square over safety issues and that a fire safety notice was issued for this property in August 2016, so minister can you now outline what other occupied properties around Dublin have fire safety notices indicating the address and date of issue for the fire safety for each property. How can tenants be left in a property which has had a fire safety notice for almost a year? I’ve asked your senior minister, Deputy Murphy, to act urgently on this.”