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Housing Bill - Government moving away from direct provision of social housing

1 October, 2008

Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty has warned that the Housing Provisions Bill 2008 indicates a dangerous move by government away from direct provision of social housing in favour of sale or private rental sector options.

The Donegal Senator said:

"There are almost 44,000 households on local authority housing waiting lists. These households include 36,000 children, living in inadequate or inappropriate accommodation. There are the 5,000 homeless people living on the streets, in hostels, B&B's or other forms of emergency accommodation.

"The 2006 census revealed that there were 216,533 vacant dwellings, this figure does not include holiday homes. In Dublin alone there are 10,000 unsold properties on the private market, many of which are two and one bedroom properties, and some of which must be suitable for providing long term homes for people experiencing homelessness.

"What will levels of housing will be needed 12 months into the present recession? Already we are getting some sense of the coming difficulties, with charities like Simon, Vincent de Paul, Threshold, Focus Ireland and Merchants Quay all reporting a significant increase in demand for their services in recent times.

"The question we must address is whether the contents of the Bill will assist in making the situation better or worse. On first reading it is clear that the Bill is deficient in a number of ways.

"The Bill, for the first time, provides a statutory definition of social housing. Unfortunately this definition includes tenant purchase and the rental accommodation scheme. We believe this is very dangerous move as it signals government's intention to once again move away from direct provision of public housing in favour of sale or private rental sector options.

"Government is already significantly behind on its NDP commitments in terms of social housing build. They are even further away from the National Economic and Social Council 2005 recommendation to ensure that the state has a total social housing stock of 200,000 units. Such a dilution of the legal definition of social housing can only mean the further erosion of government commitments to ensure that the state has a sufficient stock of social housing.

"Sinn Fein believes the bill to be a valuable opportunity, if positively amended, to empower local authorities to provide better housing services, particularly to those in greatest need." ENDS

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