Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD today condemned attempts by Labour Minister Jan O'Sullivan to introduce a new scheme of rent assistance which will see tens of thousands of people removed from social housing waiting lists.
He said that this move would deny any possibility of securing long term housing. He described the policy as a nail in the coffin of social housing in Ireland.
Deputy Ellis said:
"The new Housing Assistance Payment had the potential to improve on Rent Supplement which should only be a temporary measure of housing support. Instead it has been used as an attempt to subtly attack social housing and the very ideas behind it.
“The removal of rent assistance recipients from waiting lists means that the government has condemned families to a lifetime of insecure private tenancies which in turn will cost the state hundreds of millions of euro a year at the very least.
“Labour is trying to redefine social housing and housing need in order to further move away from a position where the state has a responsibility to provide housing.
“The idea that rent assistance is an adequate system of social housing was always ludicrous but in recent years it has been shown to be a dangerous idea as rising rents due to a shortage of real social housing has led to many families either being at threat of homelessness or actually being put out on the street.
“The private market cannot cater for the 89,000 people on social housing waiting lists and it has no desire to try. The recent NESC report stated clearly that government policy must take a firmer hand in regulating housing and ensuring that demand for homes is met. This must not be done by subsidising landlords but by building homes that are suitable to truly address the housing crisis on a not-for-profit basis.
“Sinn Féin has continually shown how Strategic Investment Funds can be used to kick start a major social housing build. 6735 new homes could be brought on stream in the next 18 months if the government takes action now. We also need to regulate rents in the private market to stop the eviction of families who cannot afford recent hikes.
“The cost of Labour’s policy will be very great on the public purse but also on our society. We cannot afford to throw poor families to wolves and deny them a secure home.
“The result of such a policy will be disastrous.”