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Thursday 14 December 2017

'It's a drop in the ocean', says Fr McVerry as 11 new units opened

Pat Doyle, Damien English and Fr Peter McVerry were on hand to launch the new homes. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Pat Doyle, Damien English and Fr Peter McVerry were on hand to launch the new homes. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A leading homelessness campaigner says the opening of 11 social housing units in the capital is just a "drop in the ocean", as homeless figures and rental prices continue to spiral.

Fr Peter McVerry was on hand to help with the opening of St Agatha's Court in Ballybough, in Dublin's north-inner city yesterday - the charity's 50th set of units to be opened in Dublin in the last two years.

The campaigner said there is "no problem with supply" in terms of housing but added he is optimistic that things are changing for the better.

"There's 200,000 empty homes," he said.

"Between the empty houses, apartments and commercial buildings, we have more than enough supply to get everyone off the social housing waiting list, to get them all off HAP and into proper social housing and to solve the homeless problem.

Frustrating

"I'm optimistic things can and will change. We are committed to playing our tiny part, but 50 apartments is a drop in the ocean compared to the problem.

"But we will play our tiny part in trying to address the homeless problem.

"It can be very frustrating working with homeless people because the services and the accommodation is so inadequate.

"But the real joy of working with homeless people is when something like this is opened and to see the smile on the face of a homeless person moving into a place like this, it's a dream come true," Fr McVerry added.

The charity's CEO Pat Doyle said it was a "great day" for the Trust.

"This is our 50th set of units we've opened in the last two years, looking at existing properties and sites and trying to bring them back," he said.

"This site came to our attention in 2014 - it was a derelict site due for demolition. It was offered to two other housing bodies and they turned it down but we saw the potential in it.

"They'll be tenants for life if they want to," he added.

St Agatha's, a formerly half-derelict 1960s elderly people's residence, was rebuilt by the Peter McVerry Trust with €1.5m of Government funding.

Junior Housing Minister Damien English, who launched the housing units in Ballybough yesterday, said the Government is determined to move families from emergency accommodation by "the end of June, beginning of July".

The latest Peter McVerry project is part of an ambitious plan to renovate some of the more than 30,000 vacant properties in Dublin.

However, Mr English said the uptake in the Renovating and Leasing Scheme had not been as successful as anticipated.

"It's not happening quickly enough," he said.

"These are people's private properties and we need to try to encourage people to make them available for private or social housing.

"There isn't a massive supply of housing but there are certainly thousands out there and we have schemes allocated to bring three or four thousand online this year."

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