Peak homelessness rate has not yet been reached, housing minister warns as number surges past 10,000


HOUSING Minister Darragh O’Brien has suggested the peak in the numbers of people who are homeless, which currently stands at over 10,000, has not yet been reached.

r O’Brien said he had flagged before last Christmas that there would be a “short-term rise in homelessness” which, according to figures released last month, now stands above 10,000 for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic over two years ago.

Official Department of Housing figures for April show that there were 10,049 people in emergency accommodation, including 1,308 families and 2,944 children.

“I think all of us are aware that behind those numbers are people, are families and we’re doing everything we can to address that situation by increasing supply,” Mr O’Brien said when asked if he was confident homelessness would fall back below 10,000 before the end of the year.

“My response to homelessness is not just on the emergency measures that we need to take, where we’re providing nearly €200 million, but it is a housing-led response to do that.

“We’re dealing with that as well as we’re dealing with the additionality that we need to ensure that those seeking protection in this country get that protection too. So I’m not going to get into trying to see when we will see that peak be reached.”

He said that as chair of the homelessness task force he was confident that supply was going to increase to a level “that we haven’t seen in years and that will help in relation to driving down homelessness”.

Mr O’Brien said the recent move by the Government to share the burden of rising construction costs on a 70:30 basis on public works projects had been very well received by developers.

“That will ensure that we’ve no delay insofar as delivery of social housing stock or indeed affordable housing stock that we’re working through,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil TD said that inflation on building materials had slowed down, that supply chains have improved and that existing Government policy meant that nearly half the homes being delivered this year will be supported by the State.

“So we’re targeting this year 24,600 new builds, which should be substantially more on last year, where it was just over 20,000. I’m still confident that we will reach that figure but obviously we need to be agile as we work through that to deal with the challenges as they come forward,” he said.

He said there was flexibility in the multi-annual €4billion-a-year Housing for All plan which meant the cost of inflation could be carried within the existing housing budget.

“What I’m really focused on is delivering more social homes this year than we’ve ever done in the history of the State and we’re on track to do that: to deliver affordable homes at scale for the first time in nearly 15 years, to deliver more cost rental, which are affordable rental for working people that didn’t exist 12 months ago.

“So we’re making progress in that space. But obviously as challenges and further challenges arise they will be addressed.”

He was speaking at the opening of 21 one-bed apartments in Ballinteer, south Dublin. The housing development has been purpose-built for seniors who may wish to downsize, thus freeing up larger homes for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s social housing stock,

Mr O’Brien said that housing targets for every local authority across the country would be published “very, very shortly” and would detail the numbers of social, affordable and private homes that will be built in those areas.

“Every local authority now knows where they need to deliver. They get the financial support from this Government and they get the human resources support that they need to be able to do this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien said that a long-awaited redress scheme for home owners affected by mica of “well over €2 billion” will be brought before Cabinet “within a matter of days”.

A review of planning laws will be concluded in September and will include legislative proposals to consolidate the State’s existing planning laws.

He also said he was “loath to comment” on the case of former Sinn Féin TD Violet Anne Wynne who said on Twitter on Tuesday that she and her six children are homeless.

The minister said that all local authorities are “resourced and funded to provide accommodation if accommodation is needed”.

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