Minister for Housing warns of very little capacity within homeless sector to accommodate refugees – The Irish Times

The Minister for Housing has warned that there was “not a great deal, if any” capacity within the homeless sector to accommodate those arriving to the country and seeking refuge, with more people today being turned away as the State cannot provide refugee applicant accommodation.

“We’ve a big challenge with regard to new arrivals, there’s no question about that, that is not going to be easy,” Darragh O’Brien said on Thursday, adding that the Cabinet subcommittee on housing will meet next Monday, followed by the Ukraine crisis subcommittee on Tuesday.

“Our job is to be able to provide more accommodation for people nobody wants to see anybody sleeping on the streets regardless of their background, we don’t want to see that, we’ll do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t have it and we don’t see a marked increase in that,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said targets in the Government’s housing masterplan are “baseline” but that there isn’t capacity to deliver more than 40,000 homes a year currently – while insisting that the Coalition has “turned a corner on housing”.

Mr O’Brien was speaking after The Irish Times reported internal Housing Commission research showing up to 62,000 new homes may be needed every year up to 2050 to keep up with demographic and other pressures.

He said the Housing Commission, which was appointed by the Government, will report to him in July, and will bring a plan forward for “a stable and secure housing system in Ireland that transcends governments, that isn’t just dependent on one government coming in and changing tack”.

Mr O’Brien said the Government had “far exceeded” this year’s target for house completions, with new figures showing 29,851 homes had been finished this year, compared to a target of 24,000.

“That is in my view a very significant result in what was a difficult year with supply chain cost inflation as well on both labour and materials.”

“It’s about being honest with people and showing that step up and phasing in delivery. You’d love to be able to click your fingers and have 40,000 homes built in a year,” he said. “There isn’t the capacity to do that, but we’re moving in that direction and that’s where I want to move to.”

Mr O’Brien said he acknowledged not everybody felt it, but that progress was being made under the government’s Housing for All plan. “There’s still a heck of a lot more to do,” he said.

“There are many people right now who don’t have a home, they’re the number one priority, the people who are homeless, to be able to secure homes for them,” he said, arguing that increased numbers of home completions showed progress “by any fair assessment”. He said he was happy with the trajectory of social housing output, which he said was sustainable, despite the fact that the Government’s target for social homes last year was missed. He said the Government would be responsible for the delivery of the highest number of social homes since 1975 last year.

Asked about extending the eviction ban which expires at the end of March, he said: “What we wanted to use that period of time for was to deliver extra homes as well, we’re seeing that, that’s a good thing, but this decision will be a matter for the government as a whole as well.”

With new homelessness figures due out tomorrow, he said “the only way to tackle homelessness is to provide people with safe and secure homes, how we do that is by building more safe and affordable homes and utilising the stock we have now”.

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