Dáil Éireann - Volume 576 - 04 December, 2003
Written Answers. - Housing Need.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
131. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the urgent action he proposes to take to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis, details supplied, and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29626/03]
Mr. N. Ahern Mr. N. Ahern
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern):The Government's strategy on housing has the central aim of enabling every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and, as far as possible, at the tenure of its choice. The general strategy for realising the overall policy aim is that those who can afford to do so should provide housing for themselves, with the aid of the fiscal incentives available, and that those unable to do so from their own resources would have access to social housing or income support to rent private housing. Existing legislation and funding programmes support this strategy.
Consequently, the Government believes that it would be inappropriate to legislate for a specific right to housing, as suggested by the campaign, on the basis that the funding commitment to the various housing programmes is leading to increased outputs and that decisions on the allocation of financial resources is a matter for the democratically accountable Government.
Within the current legislative framework, the Government has been able to place a strong focus on assisting homeless households in recent years. According to the assessment of housing need carried out by local authorities in March 2002, there were a total of 3,773 homeless households in the country at the time of assessment compared to 3,743 households in 1999. The vast majority of these were in homeless accommodation ranging from emergency to long-term supported housing rather than on the streets.
As part of the Government's homeless strategy, local authorities, together with health boards and other statutory and voluntary bodies, are required to draw up local action plans to tackle homelessness. These plans are now being implemented under the aegis of the local homeless fora and significant progress is being made in meeting the accommodation and care needs of homeless persons. A wide range of additional accommodation has been provided, ranging from emergency night shelter to long-term sheltered accommodation to enable homeless persons move out of emergency accommodation into long-term accommodation that is more suited to their needs. Increased levels of day care facilities as well as specific provisions to meet the needs of people with addiction problems or who are sleeping rough as well as homeless offenders have been put in place. Further facilities will be provided as part of the full implementation of the homeless action plans.
Substantial additional funding has been made available to support the implementation of the homeless strategies. Capital funding for the direct provision by local authorities of accommodation for homeless persons is being doubled from €25.4 million to €50.8 million during 2001 to 2005. Funding for accommodation related homeless services by local authorities has increased substantially from €12.6 million in 2000 to €50 million this year. Funding continues to be made available to the voluntary sector for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons under the Department's capital assistance scheme.
With a view to ensuring that progress is sustained, the cross Department team on homelessness continues to monitor the implementation of the homeless strategies and a review of the strategies will be initiated by the end of 2003.
The Government is bringing about real and positive changes in the provision of social and affordable housing. We have responded actively to the increased level of housing need by expanding social and affordable housing output very significantly. Last year saw the delivery of the highest level of output under the range of social and affordable housing measures for more than 15 years when the social and affordable housing needs of in excess of 12,700 households were met. The last comprehensive assessment of housing needs carried out in March 2002 indicated that there were 48,413 households listed as being in need of long-term social housing. This level of need is of considerable concern to the Government. This year I expect that local authorities on their own will secure the completion of some 5,000 housing units and this is an indication of how local authorities have successfully accelerated their own programmes in order to meeting existing demand more quickly. The Government also recognises the important role of voluntary and co-operative housing bodies and will continue to support them in their valuable work.
Dáil Éireann 576 Written Answers. Housing Need.