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Modular units are not a solution to social housing shortage – Ellis

26 November, 2015 - by Dessie Ellis TD

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has said today that the provision of modular units may be necessary to boost emergency accommodation supply but are no solution to the shortage of social housing unaffordable rents. He made his comments in response to a government motion in the Dáil seeking to fast track planning processes to deliver modular units.

Deputy Ellis said:

“The motion masquerades as something to do with the need to urgently increase the supply of social housing but under any fair and responsible consideration of what social housing is, modular units for emergency homeless accommodation do not meet that definition. Modular housing is an ugly and messy emergency measure to provide a roof over the heads of families who have become homeless and so far have been dependent on B&Bs and hotel rooms which provide them with no access to cooking or other needed amenities in accommodation. A kitchen counter does not a make a home though.

“If the government wanted to urgently increase the supply of social housing it should have fast tracked planning for the social housing 5 years ago. It could have taken all the money it would spend on emergency accommodation over the last 5 years and put that into delivering social housing. Instead it has waited, it has dragged its heels, it has directly hurt those in housing need and those most at risk of homelessness through cuts and it has done little else bar compile plans and strategies to distract from that inaction and keep the spin doctors in work.

“The government certainly could have done more to support the project to build 72 houses on the site which now will be home to 22 modular units at a cost of 4.2 million, nearly €200,000 each. This sum could have bought easily 22 homes already for sale and available in the Dublin 9 area or nearby.

“€191,000 is more than it costs the council to build a home by about €11,000, yet that is what each modular unit is costing in Ballymun. There are three bed houses in the area which could be bought easily for €70,000 less than each of these units and could be occupied in days. These would not just get a family out of hotels, but out of homelessness completely.

“In Hampton Wood in Ballymun, there are 30 homes for sale right now

“It is particularly bizarre to me that in an area like Ballymun, banned from having rent supplement and new social housing because of claims about social mix that in a time of crisis the government will allow that regime to continue while dumping at least 22 homeless families on a site in a community which has been hit hard by austerity and essential services spread thin.

“In Finglas, Cherry Orchard and elsewhere, a similar problem is found. It is not that no units can be put in these communities, but the support and planning is essential. It has to make sense.

“I welcome in the motion that it is noted that the new homeless families are coming from the private sector. Will the government now accept the need to properly regulate the private rental market to protect against homelessness? Will the government now accept the private market has every interest in exploiting the crisis and no interest in solving it? Will you accept that your cuts to rent supplement and other basic payments and supports exacerbated the homeless crisis? Will you now accept the need for rent certainty and rent control?

“Sinn Féin recognises the need for emergency measures for urgent provision for people who are homeless right now. However, in the absence of preventative measures, in the absence of social housing provision the response is hopelessly inadequate." 

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