Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Social housing deficit must be tackled - Ellis

13 April, 2013

Sinn Fein believes that all people have a right to housing. We also believe that this right should be enshrined in the constitution in the 26 counties and in a Bill of Rights in the 6 counties.

A National Housing Agency should be set up to oversee all aspects of housing with powers to act as well as develop policy.

We also feel that Local Authorities and voluntary housing groups are best placed to deliver social housing for those in need and who cannot afford private housing.

An Ombudsman should also be appointed to monitor all aspects of housing both private and public.

There is a major crisis in housing across the 26 counties with over 98000 families representing several hundred thousand men, women and children on waiting lists for social housing.

On top of this there are 24,000 families on RAS, the rental accommodation scheme, and a further 80,000 and Rent Supplement who are falsely counted as properly housed.

Rent Supplement and RAS is costing the state over 600 million euro a year  and this is going to private landlords.

Housing policy has now become a mixture of social housing by Local Authorities, housing by voluntary bodies and housing from private landlords through RAS and Rent Supplement. The balance though is fastly shifting to private provision either in the traditional sense or with massive state subsidy. This is an ideological drive by the likes of FF, FG and Labour which we must resist.

We have been told NAMA is going to deliver housing to local authorities but what we have instead is leasing arrangements mainly with voluntary housing groups. After over 3 years of NAMA they have delivered less than a tenth of the 3800 home promised again and again as a solution.

Recently Pearse Doherty and I jointly tabled a Private members Motion in the Dail relating to housing and distressed mortgages. In the motion we outlined how the state could begin to provide up to 9000 new over the next two years. We also showed how extra funding could be supplied to deal with the serious maintenance and refurbishment issues in the public housing system.

Addressing distressed mortgages we acknowledged that there are approximately 180,000 households in some form of arrears. The personal insolvency legislation introduced by this government goes nowhere near enough to addressing the huge burden placed on homeowners.

Debt forgiveness should play a major part in any solution. It was the banks and lending institutions who went on a lending spree which led to the negative equity many people find themselves in today.

These same banks shouldn’t have a veto over cases and we call for an independent arbitrator to adjudicate on individual cases.

These points inform motion 117 and I commend it to you and ask for your support.

The Homeless Strategy introduced by this government claims it will end long term homelessness by 2016. This is achievable and I welcome the government’s commitment but it will not be achieved when government policy continues to be not about providing housing and cutting from the housing budget. A housing led approach as proposed by the policy statement requires one major element missing from government policy, the provision of actual housing which is secure, adequate and affordable.

When a government leaves 98,000 on waiting lists and is putting rent supplement recipients at risk of losing their homes with limits and cuts how can we take them seriously?

Tackling homelessness needs permanent solutions to housing need. The voluntary sector cannot do it on their own, the private sector will not do it at all. It is a job for the state.

We send solidarity to the former residents of Priory Hall and their families. We salute your courage and fortitude in standing up for your rights and the rights of all people who have suffered injustices from unscrupulous developers whose poisonous greed has caused so much heartache to the people of Ireland.

We wish you well. You have our support and I commend our own Cllr Michael MacDonnacha for his work on this also.

The pyrite problems affecting tens of thousands of homes are still unresolved and I am calling on Minister Hogan to immediately bring forward the promised legislation to levy the industries identified and to put in place an emergency fund while this levy fund is building.

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