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Saturday 21 April 2018

'It's extremely disturbing', says Leoas homeless figures reach 10,000

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the rise in homelessness is "extremely disturbing".

The Government has come under serious pressure over the latest figures that show nearly 10,000 people are in emergency accommodation.

Mr Varadkar accepted the situation is an emergency, but also hit back and was accused of "cheek" for claiming that opposition policies would make the problem worse.

He told the Oireachtas Fin-ance Committee that tackling housing and homelessness is a priority.

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty challenged him on how such a claim could be taken seriously, given the latest figures showing nearly 10,000 homeless people.

Mr Varadkar pointed to the €140m spent on emergency accommodation and plans in Project Ireland 2040 to build 110,000 social homes as proof of the level of government commitment on the issue.

He said it is "very frustrating that we haven't seen sufficient progress to date", but insisted it was not down to lack of prioritisation, funding or effort.

The Taoiseach said the Government will have to look into why its policies are not having the desired effect.

He also claimed that opposition policies such as hard rent caps would reduce housing supply and "would make a bad situation much worse".

Tinkering

Mr Doherty responded to the remarks, saying: "You've some cheek on you on a day under your stewardship that there's 10,000 people in emergency accommodation."

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was also challenged on the issue of homelessness in the Dail.

Fianna Fail's outgoing housing spokesman Barry Cowen argued that Fine Gael's app-roach to the housing crisis has "lacked urgency" and is "tinkering" with the problem instead of dealing with it in a comprehensive manner.

He pointed out that the Confidence and Supply deal his party did with Fine Gael included an agreement to "substantially increase the provision of social housing".

He said Mr Murphy had mentioned some examples of individual schemes, but there is no template for how to bring this about nationwide.

Mr Murphy said the Government is focusing on developing affordable housing where it is needed most.

He said €25m was being allocated to local authorities to facilitate the development of infrastructure to develop 4,000 new homes on State-owned land and promised the delivery of rental projects for low-income families.

Mr Murphy said he is looking at practices in major cities such as Vienna and how they can impact on affordability and security for tenants.

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