herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Council's reactions to housing problem 'too slow to keep up'

Architect Dermot Bannon
Architect Dermot Bannon

A panel of experts on housing have slammed the response to the crisis as "too slow".

Niamh Randall, national spokeswoman for the Simon Communities, said that we were in the midst of a crisis.

"There just is not enough happening at present and what is happening is too slow to keep pace with the growing demand," she said.

The panel, hosted by the Simon Communities, was made up of homelessness charity representatives, university lecturers and property experts who gathered together for a forum on solutions to the housing and homeless crisis.

The speakers agreed that while there was no shortage of ideas - with affordable social housing the core tenet of their proposals - the big issue is with implementing policy with local authorities pin-pointed as a focus for this "inertia".

Slow

"Certainly, it's really slow to get up off the ground.

"They've lost a lot of staff because of staff moratoriums and austerity so it's the capacity and skill set, but what we're saying is you no longer have these moratoriums since 2011," said Ms Randall.

Architect Dermot Bannon suggested that regulations on one-bed units in developments should be changed.

"We need smaller units. It's stopping investment inward from companies like Google and Facebook because there are no homes for young people who want to come over to Ireland for a couple of years," he said.

"There's a whole section of society that require a smaller housing situation."

Michelle Norris, a senior lecturer in social policy at UCD, said that CEOs of housing associations and the chief executives of local authorities needed to be asked why they were not availing of funding.

She said that raising the finance wasn't really the problem, but implementing the spending of that finance was.

"Rather than look to Government we need to look toward the organisations responsible for implementing policy who are local authorities and the non-profit housing association sector," she said. She called for borrowing-based finance so that local authorities could borrow money to finance social housing and operate at an arm's-length from the Government.

However, Aidan Culhane of WK Nowlan Property warned that social housing was "very positive in the abstract and extremely unpopular in the particular" and that introducing it in local communities is difficult.

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