Deputy Tommy Broughan has welcomed proposed plans to expand the Choice-Based Letting (CBL) Scheme across all Local Authorities. CBL has been piloted very successfully in both South Dublin County Council and Cork City Council and has significantly reduced the number of refusals of social housing units. Currently, in all other Local Authorities, an applicant is contacted with an offer of a unit, will go to view the property and then can accept or refuse an offer. This process is, of course, cumbersome and lengthy and is in need of much improvement. CBL offers the opportunity for improvement by making the system interest-led and online.
Following a briefing by Erica Fleming, a mother from Dublin Bay North who is currently experiencing homelessness with her daughter, in Leinster House, Deputy Broughan raised a number of Parliamentary Questions on some of the suggestions which Erica made on how to immediately address the worsening housing and homelessness crisis which has led to almost 2,000 children living in hotel rooms around Ireland. One of the questions Deputy Broughan raised was regarding potential available local authority land which is zoned as residential. In a reply received on Friday last he was informed that the Residential Land Availability Survey 2014 found that there were “17,434 hectares, which given a range of densities appropriate to whether the areas are in small villages or larger towns and cities and as determined by the relevant local authorities, could theoretically enable the construction of over 414,000 dwellings”.
Deputy Broughan will today call on the newly elected TDs to establish an All-Party Forum on Housing and Homelessness to ensure that action is being taken on the worsening housing emergency while negotiations are underway to form a Government. Almost 20 years ago, Deputy Broughan first proposed a full Department of Housing and is today echoing the leading homeless charities’ call for a dedicated senior Minister for Housing with a seat at Cabinet.
Deputy Broughan today received information from the Department of Social Protection regarding the number of Rent Supplement Uplift Payments and Active HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) Tenancies by county up to the 22nd of January 2016. Unsurprisingly Dublin has the largest number of uplifts (increased payments) at 4,075 of the 6,113 uplifts nationwide being made for Dublin tenancies.
On this exact date last year, 14 January 2015, Deputy Tommy Broughan released a press statement urging all interest groups working with children and young people in Ireland to participate in the UN Review of Ireland’s children’s rights. At that time, the Children’s Rights Alliance was co-ordinating submissions from groups working with children and young people and young people themselves and engaging them in the process to ensure that it was inclusive as possible. Today, 14 January 2016, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly and 15 officials will be questioned by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva on Ireland’s children’s rights record.
Deputy Broughan has welcomed news that Dublin Simon will be running local weekly information clinics for tenants living in private rented accommodation who may be at risk of losing their tenancies. With the housing and rental crisis continuing to spiral out of control, very high numbers of worried constituents are in contact with Deputy Broughan every week. One of the issues has been the lack of information available to people until the day they are actually made homeless and it is a very distressing and confusing time for people. While Threshold have recently run an information campaign around tenant’s rights, Deputy Broughan welcomes this localised service which will hopefully provide some solace to people in difficult circumstances.
I warmly support the motion before the House and thank my Sinn Féin colleagues for giving me a chance to speak briefly on it. I would like to pay my respects to Alan Murphy, his family and friends. Last Friday, Alan died not very far from where we sit tonight. It is another tragic loss of life which can be put down completely to the failures of this Government and the Fianna Fáil Governments in their total abandonment of social housing programmes.
What needs to happen for this Government to take definitive action on our housing and homeless crisis? Will it take a horrific tragedy befalling one of the thousands of children experiencing homelessness before the so-called leaders of our country finally realise the extent of this catastrophic crisis?
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak, even briefly, on this very important Bill. I welcome some belated action from the Government to address some of the issues that have led to our dire housing and homelessness crisis. At the outset, I would like to state that this Bill will not go very far towards solving our growing homelessness problem any time soon and will not reverse the undue hardship that has been caused to the mental health and well-being of thousands of families, particularly children, over the past number of years during this Government’s tenure.