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Focus Ireland welcomes social housing strategy

By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 November, 2014

dublin-homeless-390x285A charity which helps the homeless has given a cautious well to the Government’s Social Housing Strategy which pledges to provide over 35,000 social housing units by 2020.

In a statement on Wednesday, Focus Ireland said the jobs created by this building programme will help social recovery.

The homeless agency warned the Government that it must learn from past mistakes and ensure that the communities that are built are sustainable ones with access to employment opportunities.

Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, Mike Allen, said on Wednesday that the agency welcomed the ambition of the housing strategy and that Focus Ireland would be supporting the Department in any way it could.

However, he warned that there are a number of obstacles to overcome to deliver the homes urgently required through social housing and in the private rented market.

Focus Ireland said it will take at least 18 months until the new plan begins to deliver the first homes for people in need.

The charity said there also urgently needs to be a clear and effective short-term strategy to tackle the current crisis in family homeless and in affordable housing for single people.

“The new strategy is very welcome, but the fact remains that it does nothing today for the over 400 families who have become homeless in Dublin alone so far this year and the 40 to 50 families who will sadly lose their homes and become homeless this month and next month in the run up to Christmas,” Mike Allen said.

Focus Ireland stressed that the Government has the power to prevent more people from becoming homeless.

It urged the Government to raise rent supplement to match market rents.

“They didn’t in the Budget and more people have become homeless as a result. The Government must also regulate rents to provide better long-term security for tenants in their homes,” Mike Allen said.

The charity maintains that any system must work for all and has called for tax-breaks for landlords to make it feasible and affordable for them to rent to people who need accommodation.

The Government has said its housing strategy will supply up to 110,000 homes over the next six years, including 35,000 social housing units at a cost of €3.8bn.

The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said the State will support up to 75,000 households through what he called “an enhanced private rental sector”.

The strategy comes in two phases. The first phase is to be delivered by the end of 2017, and sets a target of 18,000 additional units and 32,000 other homes where the State pays most of the tenant’s rent.

The second phase is to be delivered by the end of 2020 and sets a target of 17,000 additional units and 43,000 more homes where most of the rent will be paid under the State’s Housing Assistance Payment, which is replacing Rent Supplement, and the Rental Assistance Scheme.

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