By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 October, 2014
The Life President and founder of Focus Ireland has warned that even though the Government announced a €2.2bn social housing investment over the next three years in the budget it will take at least 18 months until this delivers the first homes for people.
Writing in the Irish Independent on Tuesday, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said Focus Ireland welcomed the news of the investment and long-term planning, but underlined it must be built on to make up for decades of social housing failure and neglect.
She warned that in the 18 months it will take to deliver the first homes for people, there will be “huge suffering for families”.
Referring to talk of an end to austerity being in sight and an improving economy, the head of Focus Ireland contrasted the reality of up to 10 families becoming homeless in Dublin alone every day since budget day.
“Families lose their homes because they can’t afford to pay rent or their mortgages,” she said.
She rejected claims of charities “talking up” a housing and homeless crisis to raise money.
“Is it not a crisis that nearly 400 families have become homeless in Dublin alone this year? That some families have been split up in Cork because there’s no suitable emergency accommodation for them? That families have had to sleep in their cars?” she asked.
Sr Stan explained in her article that families are being squeezed into hotel rooms – five or six people in one room, with nowhere to cook or for children to play, as a result of the crisis.
“One mother said that when her youngest daughter wakes in the middle of the night, she has to wake the others and they all go to the next floor to the shared bathroom. She can’t leave them alone in bed as they may not be safe.”
She also warned that the situation is continuing to deteriorate because of the critical shortage of affordable accommodation.
“We supported over 10,000 people last year who were homeless or at risk of losing their home.”
These numbers are a shocking indictment of the impact of the economic crisis that we have faced, the campaigner stated.
She said that while the Taoiseach had accepted homelessness is at a crisis point, the Government had yet to implement a crisis response.
“State-subsidised rents are too low to be attractive to landlords. People in financial distress have made huge sacrifices to top-up their rent supplement but this is not sustainable. When they run into arrears, they lose their homes,” she explained.
She called on the Government to regulate rents to provide better protection for tenants to secure people in their homes. This is done in countries like Denmark, which has a high level of people renting long-term.
“If our Government tells people who can’t afford a home (and no social housing is available) that they must go to the private rented market, it must ensure it is possible to obtain a secure and long-term home.”
She said it could not stand over a system that leaves many at the lower end of the market at the mercy of rising rents with no security.
“There also needs to be a clear and effective short-term strategy to tackle the crisis in family homelessness and lack of access to affordable housing for single people.”
“The Government must show real leadership on this issue and not just continue to play the political game of saying the right things in the media but not following up with the specific actions required.”