Tag Archives: Housing

This afternoon.

Ballyfermot Road, Chapelizod, Dublin 10.

Solidarity/People Before Profit launch their housing policy for General Election 2020 outside the De La Salle school site with middle pic above from left: Solidarity PBP candidate for Dublin North West Conor Reddy, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Brid Smith TD and councillors Hazel De Nortuin and Tina McVeigh.

Promises include:

Increase the supply of social and affordable housing through an extra €2.3 billion in Budget 2019;

Increase the contribution of private builders from 10-20% of their developments – and 30% in strategic areas;

Make it illegal to evict people into homelessness and;

Hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the constitution.

Housing Policy (Solidarity People Before Profit)

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Meanwhile..

Last night.

On RTÉ One’s Prime Time.

Miriam O’Callaghan hosted a near 25-minute debate on housing and homelessness with People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett, Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Bróin, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, and Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien.

The politicians discussed their policies while Ms O’Callaghan had the following exchange with the minister after she recalled how a homeless man suffered life-changing injuries while the tent within which he was sleeping was removed by from along the Grand Canal near Leeson Street Bridge in Dublin last Tuesday…

Eoghan Murphy: “We took over the housing brief in 2016 and we’ve doubled the number of homes built. Now that’s not enough but we’re going to double it again if we’re elected to Government.”

Miriam O’Callaghan: “Just to go back to that homeless man at the canal. I mean your leader’s instinct was first to look for a statement from a Fianna Fáil politician.”

Murphy: “Leo Varadkar’s first instinct was shock and anger and then he was upset about it. And I know this because I work with him. And he expressed sympathy when he was first asked about it. But the best way to help that individual, and other individuals, is actually not the route to emergency accommodation, it’s the route to a home.

“And that’s Housing First. People talk about how they’ve solved homelessness in Finland and some large cities. It’s that Housing First model.

“You build homes for single individuals, you take them from emergency, from the streets, into the home and you wrap the care and supports around them. And we’ve introduced that and we’ve helped more than 300 people…”

O’Callaghan: “But by any measure I suppose, in 2016, young people weren’t able to buy their own homes, rents were escalating, thousands were falling into homelessness. Four years on, that situation is exactly, more or less, the same.”

By any measure you have failed.”

Murphy: “Well since that period, we’ve been able to help 11,000 people out of homelessness. It’s not enough but those people are in homes now because of the supports that we gave. And what we did start, when we took over the housing brief, was we did focus in, not just on building more private homes, but social homes as well.

“So, in 2016, I think it was less than 1,000 social houses were built. I mean actually new homes built. Last year it was more than 6,000…”

Meanwhile…

During the programme…

Architect Orla Hegarty tweeted:

“Social housing ‘delivered’ in recent years, significant amounts purchased and leased (Research: Killian Woods, of the Business Post)”

And…

Oh.

Yesterday: ‘It’s Not Possible To Make Housing More Affordable By Just Increasing Supply’

Watch Prime Time back in full here

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin in 2017; architect Orla Hegarty; Morning Ireland clip on Soundcloud

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in Housing Studies at Dublin Institute of Technology, and Orla Hegarty, architect and assistant professor at the school of architecture at University College Dublin, spoke to Audrey Carville about the housing crisis in Ireland.

It’s possibly the calmest conversation aired about housing so far in this election.

From their discussion:

Audrey Carville: “How do we get to a point where we’re building the number of houses that we need?”

Lorcan Sirr: “There’s a huge confusion, Audrey, about the number of houses that we need and the number of houses that the private sector, in particular, can supply.

“So when you listen to the experts, like the ESRI, they will tell you that you need something like 34,000 houses a year. And they’re absolutely right, when you look at the demographics of Ireland, and if houses were free, we could give out 34,000 houses tomorrow and they would all be taken up.

“The problem is the market, there isn’t a market there for 34,000 houses, by which I mean there aren’t enough people out there, mortgage-approved, who will buy 34,000 houses.

“Typically, in any year, only about half the houses that are built come on the market for sale. One quarter go for social housing, one quarter are one-off houses and the other half then come to the market.

“In 2018, we saw about 10,000 or 11,000 houses come to the market and last year we built about 21,000 houses, just over half of those will come to the market. Already, prices are slowing down which means there isn’t a market for 34,000 houses.

“So the problem, builders are obviously not going to build when there isn’t a market there and we see the rate of housing output slowing down every year from 2017 to 2019.

“So the difference between the 12, 13, 14,000 houses that the private sector can supply and the 34,000 houses that we need is the issue for Government and that’s probably where some sort of concept like public housing comes in.

“We didn’t have this issue before because we didn’t have macro-prudential rules that limited the amount of money effectively that people could buy. Now people are much more limited in what they can borrow. So therefore the amount of people out there available to buy is less. So that’s a huge issue…”

Carville: “Ok.”

Sirr: “…around the housing output.”

Carville: “And I do want to talk about the availability of land and those issues that are actually involved in getting houses built but Orla, to you, will increase in supply make houses affordable?”

Orla Hegarty: “It’s not possible to make housing more affordable by just increasing supply because there are capacity constraints in the construction industry and we would have heard that earlier in the programme in terms of skill and our boom/bust cycle actually exacerbates that because people with skills lose their skills or they leave and we don’t train apprentices.

“So we’re now in a situation where the industry is effectively at capacity but that capacity is all concentrating into the niche markets where there are high returns.

“So what we’re seeing is the median price of new housing in the country is up at €350,000 even though the target about four years ago was to have this sort of starter homes in Dublin at around €260,000 so the costs have gone out of control but that isn’t to do with the construction sector making more money or construction costs being out of line.

“That’s got to do with what’s going on in the land market and the amount of disruption  with all the changes in planning have been brought into it.

“I mean on the department’s own construction figures, for example, we can see that in Dublin, we could be providing housing under €250,000 for people. And that would give so many people some choice. It would give them control and it would mean they didn’t need subsidies.

“So that type of housing, whether it’s three-bedroom houses, or two-bedroom apartments would meet an enormous need in Dublin.

“Obviously some people will always need some subsidy on their housing but this has broader implications for, generally, for the economy. Because what’s happening in the new supply is it’s happening in three areas really.

“It’s high priced rentals that are owned by institutions in Dublin city. There’s very little else coming to market in Dublin city…”

Carville: “And rental security as well?”

Hegarty: “Security is important but the next wave of supply that we’re seeing at the moment is more commuter-belt housing which is contrary to all of our broader Government policy to do with climate change and transportation and engagement in the workforce.

“Students and people are commuting long distances. It’s a barrier to women staying in employment.

“It means more infrastructure has to be built, to get people to work. And all of that is a policy in housing that is pushing people out into the periphery and causing other problems in the economy.”

Carville: “Lorcan, some of the parties talk about the availability of public land for social housing and who will build it and they argue that the land is there, it’s owned by the State, it’s public land, the local authorities should use it to build and they can do it for much cheaper than the private developers who do it for profit.

“So what’s the obstacle to more of that happening and building houses, as Orla says, so people can buy for €250,000 which is still an awful lot of money.”

Sirr:In theory, Audrey, the State could build houses for X and sell them for X and the State doesn’t really need to be making profit and we have hundreds of thousands of acres of State land out there, available and ready to go, or ready to go with very little input.

There is an ideology, I think, on policy-making level against competing with the private market.

“And I think that’s a big one where the Government are afraid to start building houses at any scale because then you’re starting to compete with private sector and that would be an ideological barrier from the Government’s perspective.

“They have set up a thing called the Land Development Agency [launched by the Government in September 2018 with the promise of building 150,000 new homes by 2038] whose remit is to go and take land, public sector land and use it for lots of things, including housing.

“The problem there is that they, of course, want to involve the private sector, and do partnerships with the private sector and when you bring the private sector in, the profit motivation of the private sector is not compatible with providing housing that’s affordable for your average household.

“So between the ideology and the way they’ve set up this new Land Development Agency which, in theory, is good but, in execution, is not going to provide housing that is affordable for most people is going to be a problem.”

Carville: “Do you agree with that, Orla?”

Hegarty: “I think a lot of people would see the LDA as being a new venture that could provide affordable housing. In fact, they have no remit for affordability. The remit for the LDA is to return a profit in some ways in the way that Nama was so what that means is: in the short term, it may return a profit to the State from the land value. But all of that will be paid back, over time, by the people, the residents…”

Carville: “So from your point of view, what are the key areas that the next Government that takes office, later this year, will need to address urgently?”

Hegarty: “Well what we have in our favour is we have a lot of land compared to a lot of cities that have a housing crisis, we have a lot of land. We also have a lot of vacancy. A lot of money, up to a billion next year, this year, will be spent on rent subsidies into the private sector.

“By moving that into more efficient means, and that would mean using vacancy, using EU funding for energy upgrades and commercial vacancy – every town in Ireland has vacancy. That would start to free up some funding for seed capital.

“And the important thing with housing development is, it’s not like university building or a children’s hospital. You don’t need all of the funding. You need the money to start because housing is built incrementally.

“And if it is phased, the first billion can do a certain amount, that can roll over into the next phase. So it’s a strategic approach. A finance to procurement and a design that’s going to be important now.”

Listen back in full on Soundcloud above or here

Rollingnews

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy

Yesterday.

In the Irish Mail on Sunday.

The newspaper’s political correspondent Craig Hughes reported that Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin had accused Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy of “manipulating social housing figures“.

It followed Mr Murphy saying on Friday that 10,000 social homes were provided last year – 6,545 new builds, 1,325 “acquisitions” and 2,130 houses “that local authorities and approved housing bodies acquired through long-term leases”.

Mr Murphy has said that, if he’s re-elected, 60,000 social houses will be delivered over the next five years.

However, Mr Hughes reported that Mr Ó Broin has called this pledge into question, writing:

But Deputy Ó Broin claimed that Minister Murphy is wrong to include more than 2,000 homes that had been acquired through long-term leasing.

According to the deputy, social houses acquired through long-terms leasing should not be included in the social housing delivery figures.

“In 2016 the cross party Housing and Homelessness Committees’ report very clearly defined social housing as housing that is owned by the council or AHB [approved housing body]. It’s only Minister Murphy and his Government that defines social housing any differently.”

Mr Ó Broin was reported as saying:

“The owner of a long-term lease property can withdraw, so you can’t categorise it as social housing as it is not owned by the local authority or approved housing body and ends up costing the taxpayer two to three times the price.”

Mr Hughes reported that the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan pledged to deliver 25,000 new homes (private and social) every years between 2017 and 2021 but that it failed to reach its target every year.

He also reported that the number of new homes built in 2019 is estimated to be between 20,000 and 21,000 but the final figures have yet to be released.

In addition, Mr Hughes reported that although a spokesman for Mr Murphy had pledged to provide Mr Hughes with a breakdown of the latest social housing figures – which were finalised last week – no figures were provided.

The spokesman said Mr Ó Broin’s comments were “regrettable” and misleading, adding: “Long-term leases are for 20-30 years with an option to renew. They are social houses and as secure as any other”.

Anyone?

Rollingnews

From top: a Fine Gael poster was mistakenly placed near the scene at Leeson Bridge;  Seán O’Rourke discusses housing and homelessness (from left) with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy; People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett; Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Bróin and Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien

This morning.

On RTÉ One’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

Seán O’Rourke spoke to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy; People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett; Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Bróin and Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien about housing and homelessness.

The five men discussed the incident along the Grand Canal in Dublin at lunchtime on Tuesday in which a man was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed by an “industrial vehicle” while he was still in the tent.

During their discussion, the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said he has received a report on the incident but it’s, as yet, not publishable as there are many private details pertaining to the man contained in the report.

Mr Murphy also spoke about how his election poster came to be placed in the area where the incident occurred.

At the beginning of the segment, Mr O’Rourke played a clip of what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said when he was asked to comment on the incident.

[Mr Varadkar’s comments, in which he called on the Lord Mayor and Fianna Fáil general election candidate Paul McAuliffe to comment, can be read here]

After playing the clip, Mr O’Rourke then put it to Mr Murphy that Mr Varadkar’s comments were “clumsy and insensitive”.

Seán O’Rourke: “Eoghan Murphy, how clumsy and insensitive was that on the part of you party leader An Taoiseach?”

Eoghan Murphy: “Just to say first of all, Seán, I mean this was a shocking incident and an accident that happened. I think the whole country has been very upset by it.

“And I know that all our thoughts are with the person who is in hospital and also with the people who are involved in this accident…”

O’Rourke: “The Taoiseach’s thoughts were on the political point scoring.”

Murphy: “The Taoiseach’s first reaction, when I discussed it with him and when he was discussing it publicly was one of sympathy for the person involved in this. And then this terrible event that happened, this terrible incident. And, you know, from my understanding, what he was referring to was the fact that, yes, the Lord Mayor wanted an investigation done. And yes, Dublin City Council is conducting one.

O’Rourke: “The Lord Mayor has political responsibility for it.”

Murphy: “I think, as Housing Minister, I’m responsible for what happens in relation to housing up and down the country. And local authorities have their responsibilities too. And people know that the responsibility for housing delivery, for example, is shared between my department and…”

O’Rourke: “We were looking for some sort of explanation or comment from both Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland and what we got were two statements. The first of which came from Dublin Regional Homeless Executive saying that an incident occurred involving a homeless man during a process where Waterways Ireland were removing tents that were placed in a precarious and dangerous location.

“And then Waterways Ireland came back saying the process is an initiated by DHRE with the homeless person and it’s only when that negotiation is complete, an arrangement is made that Waterways Ireland is contacted to remove the temporary accommodation on the canal bank.

“I mean if ever there was a case of blame and buck-passing that surely was it.”

Murphy: “We’re going to get to the bottom of this. It’s not the Government policy to just remove tents like this. But the tents were in a very precarious position and people might have seen some photos now, to see where they were.

“Every person who was in those tents was approached and accommodation was offered because accommodation is available….”

O’Rourke: “Damien English [Fine Gael TD] said, here in this studio two nights ago, that you were expecting to get an initial report yesterday. Did you?”

Murphy: “I did. And with that initial report there are a lot of details that go into the personal circumstances of the individual in question, so it’s not suitable for publication at this point in time. But we’re going to get to the bottom of this and we’re not going to have a blame game…”

O’Rourke: “Leave the personal circumstances aside, that’s perfectly understandable. His privacy has to be respected. But the way the two State agencies went about this business and then effectively started blaming each other.”

Murphy: “Well, so, so whenever this happens, you know, when we’re trying to help someone out of rough sleeping, into emergency accommodation and into a home which is where they really should be and that’s what Housing First is about and we can talk about that a little later.

“When we do that we do that with care and the health and safety of the individual in mind. And two State agencies were working together and an accident occurred. And we need to find out how that accident occurred and why. And I spoke with every city and county manager yesterday, in a regular meeting that I have, and I emphasised the points of taking …”

O’Rourke: “Except in this case, quite patently they weren’t working together because there was a man inside a tent.”

Murphy: “Yeah, but look, let’s just not jump to conclusions until we actually have the investigation complete. We know something went wrong here. We know it shouldn’t have happened. The people who are caught up in this themselves are distraught by it. Our thoughts are, first and foremost, with the person in hospital.

“We will get to the bottom of this but every city and county manager has been told directly by me that this must not happen again and to take every care when they’re looking after people who need our help the most.”

Eoin Ó Bróin: “And this is the second very serious and tragic event affecting a homeless person this week. Obviously there was the death of the young woman in emergency accommodation. I think, let’s take the electoral politics out of this and let’s say this has to be a turning point in terms of how we respond to rough sleeping. And there’s a number of things I think the minister needs to do and to do as quickly as possible.

The practice of Waterways Ireland issuing eviction notices to rough sleepers in tents on the canal has to end and end now.”

O’Rourke: “Ok, minister, just quickly on that point, should it and has it?”

Murphy: “What we’re trying to do is to get everyone into a home. That’s Housing First.”

O’Rourke: “No, no, no. The eviction notices by Waterways Ireland.”

Murphy: “So what would happen in that instance though, those tents, they couldn’t remain there. It wasn’t safe for them.”

Talk over each other

Murphy: “Their care was being put first and foremost when the accident happened.”

Eoin Ó Bróin: “There’s a policy of Waterways Ireland in conjunction with Dublin City Council to issue eviction notices to people in tents. So first of all, that has to end. And the removal of tents and the use of heavy machinery to do that has to end. The second thing is that while it is the case that the individual in question was offered emergency accommodation, there are lots of reasons why people who are very vulnerable find it difficult, if not impossible, to take up that accommodation.

“And [Fr] Peter McVerry is right when he spoke earlier in the week. We have to phase out the use of dormitories. Particularly for people with complex needs or who have other issues going on in their lives. That has to end, that has to be an objective of the next Government.

“And the third thing is Housing First is where you take people out of rough sleeping and low-threshold emergency accommodation, you give them their own home and have wraparound support. The Government had a target in its most recent report of 600 over three years. We need to double that…”

Later

Richard Boyd Barrett: “The circumstances of what happened at the canal are just horrific and shameful and without getting into all the details because I don’t know all the details. I do not understand why a digger was required to remove a tent. Right? A small tent.

“That is beyond explanation.”

Later

O’Rourke:You dodged the question though that I put to you based on what Eoin Ó Broin said earlier about these eviction notices by Waterways Ireland. Should they stop?

Murphy: “I, so, the practice of Waterways Ireland…”

O’Rourke: “It won’t take long now to answer that question.”

Murphy: “Can I just say: the practice of Waterways Ireland in this instance, in relation to the people who were there and why the equipment was used that Richard asks, that will be clear when the investigation is finished. But it wasn’t safe for the people there and that was primary motivation…”

O’Rourke: “It sure as hell wasn’t safe if the man ended up in Vincent’s Hospital with life-changing injuries.”

Murphy: “Hold on, hold on, this is an accident that happened. They were trying and met with each individual who was sleeping there, trying to help them out…”

O’Rourke: “By the way, I mean, would you accept as well Minister, and this is not to make a political point that one of the defining images of this election campaign will be the pictures that were on the front of the Irish Examiner and other papers yesterday of that particular scene and the garda coming along to do the investigation with your picture on a pole overlooking the whole thing, looking for votes. You, as Housing Minister.”

Murphy: “Seán, I think that is a political point. But I think again and, you know, I have volunteers who helped put up my posters. They were postering late at night. The person who was doing it didn’t notice what was happening because they were just focused on doing one thing. And the second that we saw it was there, I had someone take it down and the person who put it up feels very bad about that.

“But, like I mean, this isn’t about Eoghan Murphy and posters in a campaign. This is about a problem we have in this country about people sleeping rough that we can end using Housing First…”

O’Rourke: “Just to go back to that year 2017, the target point, July 2017, where it was to the case that no family or no homeless people would be put into these emergency accommodations. What’s the new target?”

Murphy: “So we have a very difficult situation where we don’t currently have enough homes being built to match demand. And until we get to that point, we’re going to continue to have people who are presenting themselves to emergency accommodation.”

O’Rourke: “So there is no new target?”

Murphy: “Can I just finish this point. At the moment, for every family that presents itself to emergency accommodation, we prevent one from going in immediately. We find them a home…”

O’Rourke: “Ok, it was 2017 what’s the new, is there a new deadline?”

Murphy: “Seán, can I just finish this point because…”

O’Rourke: “Please do.”

Murphy: “Since I’ve been housing minister 11,000 people have exited homelessness which is more than the number in emergency accommodation today. But we still have far more to go. We still have people in hotels and we want to end that. Our focus is on…well, our focus is on building more homes. So it was 10,000 last year. More this year for social housing.”

O’Rourke: “No more hostels…maybe the minister is right, Eoin Ó Broin…”

Murphy: “We’ve less families and children in emergency accommodation today than we had a year ago because we’re building more social housing homes.

Ó Bróin: “First of all I think if you put together credible targets, following consultation with local authorities and the voluntary sector, they work. The problem with the Simon Coveney target of the summer of 2017 was it was just plucked out of a hat.”

“But I think repeatedly the NGO sector, who do sterling work, academics and opposition have been calling on the Government to do a number of things. We have to reduce the flow of families into homelessness in the first place.

“Now some good work is done, I want to acknowledge that. But, for example, the ability of landlords who availed of Section 23 tax breaks to issue vacant possession notices to quit, is still the single largest drivers of families presenting as homelessness. That needs to stop as an emergency measure.

“The second thing is that it’s not that there’s not enough homes being built. It’s the Government is not building enough homes. Nowhere close to what’s required. And Housing First, Eoghan is absolutely right. It was Fianna Fáil who first put Housing First into a homeless policy document in 2008 and they never did anything about it.

“Housing First works for the homeless person and it works for society as a whole and, for the life of me, given that we have between two to three thousand individuals who need this intervention, the Government’s target is only about 600 over three years.

“I welcome every single one of those but it has to be dramatically increased no matter who is in Government after this election.”

More to follow.

Rollingnews

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness speaking in the Dáil yesterday

Yesterday evening.

In the Dáil, during a debate about housing…

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said if a vote of no confidence in the Government was put forward, he would support it.

It follows Fianna Fáil members abstaining from voting in a motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on Tuesday night.

He also referred to his party’s confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael “a farce”.

Mr McGuinness also spoke about Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan who, earlier this year, had debt cases removed from him under a direction by the President of the High Court Peter Kelly.

The Fianna Fáil recalled how he introduced an Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill in the Dáil, assisted by Mr Honohan, “which went nowhere”.

Mr McGuinness said:

“I have said many times in this House that the first obligation on any Government is to keep its people safe, and this Government has failed miserably to achieve that across many sectors.

“If I wanted to sum up the Government’s attitude and explain it to someone, I would give the example of the Government’s support for the banks when they evict people and for the vulture funds when they treat people badly. The Government turns its back on the people who are affected.

“This Government introduced vulture funds to this country. The citizens of this State, through the Government, own or have an interest in some of the banks.

“If the Government wants to solve part of the housing crisis, it must acknowledge that the policies of the banks are the source of some of the biggest issues that we now face, including homelessness, evictions, repossessions, people being put out of their homes and not having any security.

“In July of this year, one particular bank sold 2,100 loans to a vulture fund, according to its portfolio of sales. Those were people’s homes. They ranged in value up to €250,000, so they were not big, expensive properties. These were homes to which people who hoped to own a home aspired.

“The Government allowed that transaction to take place and left those people in a vulnerable position with no security whatsoever.

AIB is preparing a home loan sale that may result in 6,000 of those types of loans being transferred to a vulture fund. Other banks, aside from the one I have mentioned, will sell on family homes and AIB might be next.

“David Hall, the mortgage debtor advocate, called this situation a tsunami. Many commentators will try to undermine him and others by calling that a ridiculous suggestion, but the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach today discovered, as evidenced in the portfolio of sales of a particular bank in April 2019, that banks are now stockpiling for sale homes and mortgages with which they cannot deal.

“The banks are saving the costs that would have been associated with legal fees, administration and finding a solution to the problems within the bank and will cast the people affected to the discretion of the market and what the vulture funds might do with those houses.

“That is the kernel of the problem for a considerable number of people. The Minister of State and his Government do absolutely nothing about it. The Government gives tax breaks to those funds. In fact, it does not tax them at all.

The Government allows the banks that it owns to do this to its people and will not change direction regardless of who tells it to. All of that is being piled on top of the housing crisis.

“Local authorities simply cannot deal with these issues. I have seen how planning applications and suggestions from local authorities are treated by the Department.

“It is heavily bureaucratic and some of the loops and hoops through which people have to go to deliver houses in an emergency situation are almost nonsensical. These are not normal times. We are in an emergency.

“That notwithstanding, the Department continues to put people through hoops and put obstacles in the way of the real delivery of houses.

“I agree that there should be a construction programme directed by local authorities with real solutions because they have the information. Local authorities and councillors know their housing lists inside out and do not have to be told anything.

“They are being stopped in the street and asked when a son or daughter will get a house or by a couple hoping to get a house who want to know when their case will be resolved.

“I do not know who the speaker was but the Minister of State said that they were to pay for bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels. The implementation of that as a policy does not work, and it is not the case that councils will do it immediately for people who are in desperate straits. That is simply not right.

“There is a policy that the Minister of State may have set down but it is not being adhered to across each and every county. As a result, we get different approaches to his different policies.

“Deputy Doherty has a Bill before the finance committee because the Minister of State is looking for solutions. It is the No Consent, No Sale Bill 2019. I will support him on that Bill because it was brought forward in the absence of any understanding of any real policy by this Government.

“I introduced the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill here, assisted by the Master of the High Court, Ed Honohan, which went nowhere.

“The Government did nothing about it. As a result of ignoring all the Bills before the House that have passed Second Stage and are waiting to be debated in committee, the Government has introduced money messages and further obstacles of bureaucracy. It simply will not listen to anybody.

“Fr Peter McVerry was on a television programme the other night. He has no political interest, but by God did he lay it on the line for the Government and tell it where it is going wrong.

“The courts are dealing with cases where houses are going to be repossessed. That will mean that families will be put on the street.

“I know of a landlord in Dublin who is trying desperately to hold on to his house. There are at least six people living in that house who will be on the street.

“I know a lady and her children in Bray who have been before and humiliated in the courts. She has been dragged by security officers out of the bank as she tried to present her case directly to it.

“She has been threatened by the sheriff in the most appalling of ways. She is trying to hold on to her home for herself and her children and this State stands idly by and allows the thuggery that is involved in removing people from their homes.

“The Government should be ashamed that it has allowed this to happen.

“I point the Minister of State to the Glenbeigh sale where those who are trying to seek legal representation because of the manner in which that sale was conducted cannot get the Abhaile scheme.

“Even some of the schemes Ministers have in place are not able to be accessed by the people who need them most.

The one man who stood in the gap and stopped some of the vultures and the banks behaving the way that they did, which I thought I would never see happen in this country, including thuggery and corruption – one can throw all the names one likes at it – is Ed Honohan.

“He gave everybody who came before him a chance. He held the banks to account and the President of the High Court, with a nod, I am sure, from the Government, took all those cases away from him. That is a shame in itself.

“It is administration that is not right and should not be accepted. I ask the Government to start in the courts with the banks it owns and stop these terrible evictions and repossessions and do something concrete about this issue.

“On the vote of confidence, I agree Fianna Fáil sat on its hands. It did the same with the motion on the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris.

“The fact of the matter is that a Minister is acting at one with the Cabinet. If a Member tables a motion of no confidence in the Government, I will vote for it because that is the way it should be.

I honestly hope that this supply and confidence arrangement, which is a farce and is accommodating all this stuff, comes to an end quickly in the new year so that at least the electorate can have its say.”

Watch the debate back in full here

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

This afternoon.

Parnell Square, Dublin 2

Miles Kavanagh dressed as Elvis (above) joins a protest against homelessness from Parnell Square to the Dáil.

More as we get it.

Thankyewverymuch.

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Update:

This afternoon.

The march passes, from top: O’Connell Street (pics 1 and 2) and Grafton Street before arriving at Kildare Street (above).

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

From top: Social Democrats co-leaders Catherine Murphy (left) and Róisín Shortall; Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy

This morning.

Bryan Dobson interviewed Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland ahead of the Social Democrats’ motion of no confidence in him this evening.

The Department of Housing’s homeless figures show there were a total of 9,724 individuals in emergency accommodation in October 2018.

In November 2018, the figure was 9,968; in December 2018, 9,753; in January 2019,  9,987; in February 2019, 10,264; in March 2019, 10,305; in April 2019, 10,378; in May 2019, 10,253; in June 2019, 10,172; in July 2019, 10,275; in August 2019, 10,338; in September 2019, 10,397.

The figures for October 2019 have yet to be released even though they were expected to be last week.

At the beginning of the interview, Mr Murphy called the motion “opportunistic” and “reckless”.

From the interview…

Eoghan Murphy: “We’re talking about a party which never once questioned me on Rebuilding Ireland on the Joint Oireachtas committee, the programme that I’ve been implementing now for the last two and a half years, that never put down one amendment on the residential, the rent reform bill that I brought earlier this year.

“And we know that the majority of people who are coming into emergency accommodation are coming from the private rental sector. I brought through reforms to protect those people. They didn’t put down one amendment and we know as well that Social Democrat candidates and public representatives, including Roisin Shortall who was on earlier, are objecting to housing in their own constituency.”

Bryan Dobson: “Well they have put down this motion and just in relation to what it might mean for the Government. There’s no question of you standing aside, allowing the Government to survive. It would mean the end of the Government, a defeat tonight.”

Murphy: “Bryan this is a stunt from the Social Democrats. Rebuilding Ireland is working to fundamentally increase the supply of housing in a sustainable way and driving a programme and reforming…”

Dobson: “And we’ll come to that. Just in relation to the politics, it will depend then obviously on the votes of Michael Lowry, for example, who as we know, is convicted of tax offences; of Noel Grealish to support you, whose comments recently on immigrants you described as “disgusting” and “potentially dangerous”. Those are the sort of people you need to go through the lobbies to keep you in Government.”

Murphy: “And my own colleagues in Fine Gael. We’re a minority Government, Bryan. And we get the support from different elements, different parties, different individuals in the House on any given vote. Each vote is different and each vote should be taken on its own merits.”

Dobson: “Right. And just…Dara Murphy, you expect him to be there? Your colleague?”

Murphy: “I do.”

Dobson: “The motion is in relation to confidence in you as minister. And you stand presumably on your record, so let’s look a little bit at your record. First in relation to homelessness.

“In June 2017, when you came into office, there were 7,900 people in emergency accommodation. At the end of September [2019], the most recent figures, that figure had risen to 10,397.

“Now that’s your record. Why would that inspire confidence?”

Murphy: “On that particular issue alone and I think we need to separate out housing and increasing the supply of housing and what’s happening in emergency accommodation because it’s more complex. Since I’ve been minister more than 12,000 people have exited homelessness. So while there has been an increase in the number of people in emergency accommodation and no one is happy about that, far many more people have been taken out of housing an security because of the work that we have done.

“Another thing to look at as well, is if you look at the 12 months before Rebuilding Ireland, the increase in the number of children going into emergency accommodation increased by 50 per cent. In the last 12 months, it’s increased by one per cent.

“That huge difference, in terms of the number of people going into emergency accommodation  is because of Rebuilding Ireland, because it is building new home and it’s supporting people in other ways who might be in housing insecurity.”

Dobson:It’s still the case though that there are close-on 3,900 children in emergency accommodation and we know from recent study carried out by the Royal Holloway Hospital in London that that has very significant or can have very significant implications for their development.

“They reported they couldn’t crawl or walk because of lack of space. That they didn’t have the ability to chew because they didn’t have access to the kind of food that they should be getting access to. That’s really a dreadful situation for any children to be in.”

Murphy: “Of course, and if we hadn’t had Rebuilding Ireland in place, if we hadn’t this programme to increase the supply of homes, that number would be much, much higher. But because we are increasing house building, we’re able to prevent more people from going into emergency accommodation so one in two families, only two families that came into homeless services this year, we found a home for one immediately.

“Regrettably another family went into emergency accommodation. But so far this year, 900 families have left emergency accommodation so a huge amount of work is being done to try and protect people in housing and security and if we didn’t have a plan that wouldn’t be happening.

“And the Opposition [inaudible] Rebuilding Ireland but they haven’t presented their own plan to replace it. And they haven’t changed one thing that I had done. We are the minority, we discussed earlier, they could change my plan and they haven’t.”

Dobson: “We also know that 45% of families in emergency accommodation are spending more than a year there. The figure is 15% for those who spend more than two years. So people are trapped in long-term homelessness here.”

Murphy: “So the majority are spending less than a year based on the figure you just gave to me. And that’s the important thing to point out. More than 50% of families in emergency accommodation are there for less than 12 months. It shouldn’t be any period at all but we don’t have the houses built yet. I mean we had a point inside very recently where the construction sector was basically non existent and almost nothing was being built.

“In a short period of time, we’ve had to rebuild the sector, build homes, and it’s at a time of net immigration as well. But the news now, under Rebuilding Ireland, is that the number of homes being built is dramatically increasing and that’s how we fix this problem. If you’re in a family hub, you’re spending an average of six months, and a family hub is the preferred option over a hotel and we’re rolling out family hubs all the time…”

Dobson: “And we’ve been hearing this, we heard it a year ago when you last defended yourself against a no confidence motion. We’ve been hearing it year after year from other previous ministers as well and yet the numbers still continue to rise. The plan, it seems, is not adequate to the challenge.”

Murphy: “The point about the numbers, Bryan, is that things were at risk of exploding. And the NGOs over the summer said that they were worried that the numbers of people in emergency accommodation was going to explode and they acknowledged that that didn’t happen. They’ve essentially remained almost flat for the last year because we have been able to build more homes. We’ve been able to stop the number of people going into emergency accommodation and now help people out.

“But we have to build more homes to get those people out of emergency accommodation and on that point, the CSO does the counting and those numbers don’t lie.”

Later

Murphy:Rebuilding Ireland isn’t four or five years old yet, OK. So what we’re doing is increasing the social housing stock by more than 50,000 homes under Rebuilding Ireland and in the final year of Rebuilding Ireland which is 2021, which isn’t very long away, we’ll house more people in social housing homes than we will through the private rental sector. That’s the turnaround that we’re facing.”

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile…

On the letter’s page in this morning’s Irish Times...

I attended court with a young homeless boy who had been charged with theft of a bottle of orange, value €1.

Another homeless man was charged with theft of four bars of chocolate, value €3.

Another homeless man was charged with theft of two packets of Silk Cut cigarettes.

A TD, on his way to, or from, his full-time, very well paid job in Brussels, stops by at Dáil Éireann to sign in, so that he can collect his full €51,600 expenses for his attendance in the Dáil.

Fr Peter McVerry SJ,
Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice,
Gardiner Street,
Dublin 1.

A tale of two cities (Irish Times letters page)