Home > Dail Eireann debate. Local authority housing issues.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Local authority housing issues. (25 Sep 2013)

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Deputy Catherine Byrne: I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter and the Minister of State for coming before the House to take it. There are approximately 166 housing vacancies in the area in which I live. There are 70 in the south-west inner city, 70 plus between Ballyfermot and Inchicore and 27 in the Crumlin-Kimmage area. In Dublin city alone, approximately 16,000 people are on the housing list. Some 7,000 of these individuals live in Dublin South-Central. The majority of people who attend my clinics have problems with housing. They are not able to get houses and many of them have been on the list for more than ten years. Yesterday, the Simon Community announced that the number of people sleeping rough in the period July to September increased by 88% over the figure for the corresponding period last year. On one night its volunteers found 85 people sleeping rough on the streets. 

At this point I must thank the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Simon Community and, above all, the Salvation Army. Were it not for those services, this city would be flooded with people sleeping rough at night. I visited Merchant's Quay in the company of the Taoiseach during the summer. Roughly 300 people attend the services available there each day. They are able to obtain meals, wash themselves and do other important things such as seeing a doctor or a dentist. Those we met were mainly men between the ages of 30 and 50. Aside from their alcohol and drug addiction problems, their main reason for being there is because they are homeless. If they have places in hostels, they are obliged to leave by a certain time and then spend the day on the street. The Taoiseach indicated that he understood their plight and made a commitment to taking action in respect of the problems of homelessness in Dublin, particularly in the Merchant's Quay area where many men sleep rough at night.
I have been informed that Dublin City Council's budget does not allow for any further work on vacant units. Only one contractor is employed in respect of works in Dublin South-Central. All the other contractors have been let go. The average turnaround time for contractors is six weeks for a flat and longer for a house. If the matter goes through the maintenance department of Dublin City Council, it can take anything between six months to a year for work to be completed. This is extremely troubling. Maintenance crews, particularly craftsmen, have been redeployed and some have even lost their jobs. The latter makes it even more difficult for those who are left to do their ordinary work - carrying out everyday necessary maintenance on houses and flats - properly and they find it impossible to spend a fortnight making vacant houses and flats capable of habitation again. Furthermore, a large number of private landlords are abandoning the rent allowance scheme and this is leading increasing numbers of people into local authority housing. This is also troubling because many of those involved have been in private rented accommodation for up to 15 years. I understand that landlords may wish to move on and, given the times that are in it, sell their properties. However, this is placing a huge burden on the city council.
I grew up near Richmond Barracks, which later became Keogh Square and then St. Michael's Estate. It was not the best place in which to live but at least people had a roof over their heads. Anybody from the area will acknowledge that at least they had homes.
The actions of those in the voluntary housing sector are adding to the problem. Voluntary housing organisations have become very selective with regard to the tenants they choose. This means that the council is being obliged to house many of the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals in society. The needs of these people really need to be addressed. I request that the Minister of State seek a meeting with the new city manager to see what might be done in the context of making available some of the long-term voids that are in existence, particularly those in Dublin South-Central, in order that very young men there might avail of a bed-sit, even for the evening.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan):I thank Deputy Catherine Byrne for raising this issue and I know she is extremely concerned about it. On her final point, I intend to meet the new Dublin city manager as soon as possible. I will be addressing with him all the issues to which the Deputy refers.
The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including the carrying out of pre-letting repairs, is a matter for each individual local authority under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. My Department is committed to supporting local authorities in maintaining and improving the quality of the national social housing stock through a range of measures, including large-scale urban regeneration programmes, improving the standard and energy efficiency of dwellings, pre-letting repairs and improvement and refurbishment works to vacant properties, in order to return them to productive use as quickly as possible. This year, my Department is providing funding of more than €62 million to Dublin City Council in respect of its 2013 social housing programme. This includes €31 million for regeneration projects in Ballymun and at a number of other locations in Dublin city. A further €9.8 million is being provided under the remedial works scheme for the refurbishment of tenanted and vacant units in Liberty House and Bunratty.....

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