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Housing list in Kerry has increased by 82% since 2005

16 December, 2008 - by Martin Ferris TD


Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris speaking during a Dáil debate on a joint Sinn Féin/Labour Party motion on Social Housing and Homelessness said, "The overall waiting list for Kerry is now over 3,300. That represents an increase of 82% since 2005. It is not too late to address the shortfall in public housing. A housing programme designed to clear the existing local authority housing list, which is almost 60,000 for the entire state, would also be a huge boost for the construction sector and the economy in general."

Deputy Ferris said, "59,000 households are stuck on local authority waiting lists. And that figure has increased steadily over recent years and will continue to grow. In my own county the waiting list grew from 1,483 in 2002 to 1,831 in 2005. That was despite the fact that those years witnessed the pinnacle of the Celtic Tiger. And yet despite that, the signals were not recognised and the necessary steps taken to address the fact that the public housing building programme was inadequate to meet demand.

"Since then the situation has considerably worsened. The overall waiting list for the whole county is now over 3,300. That represents an increase of 82% since 2005. 1,296 of these are on the County Council list.

"That is an extremely disturbing situation and reflects both the increasing dependence on the public housing sector as a consequence of, first of all house prices having been beyond many peoples reach, and now the rise in the number of people out of work with the subsequent increase in demand on the local authorities.

"However, we cannot overlook the fact that while the economy was doing well and when the public purse was full that the resources that were there were not invested in meeting that demand. The state was content to allow the private sector and the lending institutions to set the agenda for housing. Which meant inflated mortgages and rents that were often way out of line with wage increases and the consumer price index for other products and services. We must recognise therefore that there was a considerable element of profiteering involved in the housing sector and that this has contributed to much of the current economic crisis.

"Of course it is not too late to address the shortfall in public housing and the argument has been made regarding the substantial boost that a housing programme designed to clear the existing local authority housing list, which is almost 60,000 for the entire state, would be for the construction sector and the economy in general.

"Overall in relation to housing, the verdict must be that the Governments which have been in power over the years of economic prosperity have failed. They have failed to meet social and affordable housing targets by as much as 40% in recent years helping to artificially inflate the property market, as well as leaving thousands of people including children in bed and breakfasts, sub standard over priced private accommodation and in some instances on the streets.

"Fianna Fáil and the Green Party need to remember their political mandates. They need to remember who gave them that mandate. The Government may not recognise this, but the people do. It's time for Government to listen to its people." ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ferris' speech follows:

As Deputy O Snodaigh outlined earlier, housing need has reached crisis point. 59,000 households are stuck on local authority waiting lists. And that figure has increased steadily over recent years and will continue to grow.

Those on housing lists are often people living in homes that are unsuitable, overcrowded or too expensive. People who have to share accommodation with others including family members or who are in private rented accommodation that they cannot afford.

Many families with children in particular are living in apartments and flats that have no facilities for children to play either within or close to the buildings, which in many cases means that children spend much of their time cooped up inside.

Much of the privately built and rented accommodation around our cities and towns is unsuitable for the raising of families and yet many families are being forced to rent them, and in many instances with financial support in the form of rent allowance, because the public authorities have been unable to meet existing demand. And because the targets for social housing have not been met.

In my own county the waiting list grew from 1,483 in 2002 to 1,831 in 2005. That was despite the fact that those years witnessed the pinnacle of the Celtic Tiger. And yet despite that, the signals were not recognized and the necessary steps taken to address the fact that the public housing building programme was inadequate to meet demand.

Since then the situation has considerably worsened. The overall waiting list for the whole county is now over 3,300. That represents an increase of 82% since 2005. 1,296 of these are on the County Council list.

In Tralee town alone, the waiting list has grown from 948 in 2005 to 1300 at the moment. That is an increase of 37%. In Killarney the increase is even greater with the list having doubled in those three years to around 600.

That is an extremely disturbing situation and reflects both the increasing dependence on the public housing sector as a consequence of first of all house prices having been beyond many peoples reach and now the rise in the number of people out of work with the subsequent increase in demand on the local authorities.

However, we cannot overlook the fact that while the economy was doing well and when the public purse was full that the resources that were there were not invested in meeting that demand. The state was content to allow the private sector and the lending institutions to set the agenda for housing. Which meant inflated mortgages and rents that were often way out of line with wage increases and the consumer price index for other products and services. We must recognise therefore that there was a considerable element of profiteering involved in the housing sector and that this has contributed to much of the current economic crisis.

Of course it is not too late to address the shortfall in public housing and the argument has been made regarding the substantial boost that a housing programme designed to clear the existing local authority housing list, which is almost 60,000 for the entire state, would be for the construction sector and the economy in general.

If that route was followed we would be killing two birds with the one stone. Fulfilling a pressing public demand and need, and injecting some much needed impetus into the economy at a time of sharp downturn.

Homelessness is also a growing problem with many people who have recently lost jobs or sometimes still in low paid employment falling into that condition.

In August of this year the government launched an ambitious and deliverable plan to end long term homelessness by 2010. The Way Home strategy commits the Government to focus on preventing homelessness, meeting long term housing needs, and ensuring effective services for homeless people and providing better coordinated funding. Sinn Fein welcomed the launch of the plan. It is ambitious and this is a good thing.

However, we would question as to whether the right policies and legislation are in place, backed up by adequate resources. Particularly at a time when cutbacks are impacting on a wide range of publicly funded programmes and services.

Overall in relation to housing, the verdict must be that the Governments which have been in power over the years of economic prosperity have failed. They have failed to meet social and affordable housing targets by as much as 40% in recent years helping to artificially inflate the property market, as well as leaving thousands of people including children in bed and breakfasts, sub standard over priced private accommodation and in some instances on the streets.

But this can be turned around. Fianna Fáil's current Government partners in the Green Party have been shamefully quiet on this issue and also have a heavy responsibility to address the housing crisis.

Unfortunately they have shown little sign that this is a priority for them nor have they used their influence to implement the type of housing policy they espoused while in opposition.

No doubt they will claim that the current economic climate has forced them to change tack. However, as I said earlier, the sort of building programme required to fulfil their promises on social housing and to eliminate public authority waiting lists would represent a significant economic boost at the current time.

Fianna Fáil and the Green Party need to remember their political mandates. They need to remember who gave them that mandate. The Government may not recognise this, but the people do. It's time for Government to listen to its people. I commend this motion to the House.

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