The Government has been accused to using “Wendy house” policies to fix the housing crisis and of “utterly failing” in their jobs to reduce homelessness.
Tabling her party’s confidence motion against Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy outlined how high rents, unaffordable homes, and homelessness were at an all-time high. She said her party had tabled hundreds of questions around housing as well as legislation in the Dáil to limit rents.
“Facts get in the way of spin,” she told Fine Gael TDs during the debate.
The minister’s “business as usual approach” had sought to “normalise” child homelessness and an “entire generation had been locked out” of being able to afford mortgages, she said.
“The narrative has to change and affordability has to be central to this,” said Ms Murphy.
Mr Murphy said just 400 social housing units were built in 2014 and that, by next year, the number would be more than any time in the last two decades. Under Rebuilding Ireland, some 64,000 new places to live had been delivered, he told the Dáil.
Mr Murphy said it was “a nonsense” the Government were relying on the market for solutions. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the economic crash was to blame for the housing shortage and no individual party. There was a shortage of some 200,000 units, he said.
Mr Varadkar said:
While admitting that the homeless numbers were “shameless” and “terrible”, Mr Varadkar claimed that incomes were now rising faster than house prices. He called the confidence motion a “stunt”.
Fianna Fáil abstained from the vote, as agreed under the confidence and supply agreement. However, party TD Shane Cassells attacked Fine Gael, arguing they only offered “Wendy house solutions” and “the prospect of a general election next year would allow the people decide.”
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said Fine Gael was “blind to its policy failures”, while Fianna Fáil were “engaged in shadow-boxing” by supporting the coalition.
“Children this Christmas will be waiting for Santa Clause in B&Bs and family hubs,” she said.
The Dáil debate comes after new record homelessness figures triggered fresh demands for action. A total of 10,514 men, women and children were in emergency accommodation in October, according to the figures from the Department of Housing. This is an increase of 117 people since September and is the tenth consecutive month where the figures have exceeded 10,000.
Mr Murphy’s department attempted to play down the crisis, saying there was a decrease of 23 families and 47 children. It also said the increase in adult numbers was expected after the recent addition of extra emergency beds.
Charities responded swiftly. The Simon Communities said that there had been a rise of 8.1% since October 2018, when the figure was 9,724. Furthermore, 6,688 adults are now homeless, an increase of 11.5% since 2018.