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Vacant homes the low-hanging fruit needed to tackle the homeless emergency- O'Sullivan

27 October 2017

Statement by Jan O'Sullivan TD
Spokesperson on Housing & Local Government, Enterprise & Innovation

Labour Housing spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan TD has urged the Government to make use of the thousands of vacant homes lying idle across the country in a bid to quickly tackle the homeless crisis.

It comes as the latest figures from the Department of Housing show the number of people living in emergency accommodation has reached a record high, with nearly 8,400 people accessing emergency accommodation in September.

Deputy O’Sullivan said:

“It is now more than two months since the Minister for Housing warned that property owners with second and vacant properties should be ‘on notice’ that changes were coming.

“While no one doubts the sincerity of the Minister in his efforts to get a handle on this crisis, movement on the Vacant Homes Strategy has been too slow.

“We are still awaiting the publication of the strategy, but CSO figures have shown there are around 180,000 vacant homes in Ireland, of which the Government has said about 25,000 could be used in tackling the homelessness crisis.

“We know that using these empty homes will not resolve this crisis overnight, but getting these units back into use as soon as possible would certainly provide some immediate relief to the more than 8,000 people accessing emergency accommodation, of whom 3,124 sadly are children.

“Quite simply this is the low-hanging fruit option that we need to avail of in this current housing emergency.

“It is also of note that while the figures point to a slight reduction in Dublin, which is to be welcomed, we are seeing the level of homelessness rise sharply outside the capital.

“This brings into focus once more the issue of rising rents, particularly outside the Rent Pressure Zones. My own constituency of Limerick is a prime example of this, which now has the highest number of homeless people outside Dublin, and I would again call on the Government to link rent increases to the cost of living.

“I am also calling on the Minister to amend legislation passed in December to protect all tenants, and not just those covered by the so-called ‘Tyrellstown amendment’ from being evicted if the property is being sold.

“The Act could be amended in the Oireachtas in just a week if there is the political will to do it. The situation is urgent and will only get worse for those in already desperate situations as winter sets in.”