Minister hopeful of ‘scaling up’ plans for permanent accommodation

The Government is promising a package of measures in the coming weeks as it seeks to intensify its efforts to deal with the housing crisis.

However, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy would not be drawn yesterday on the elements of the package, saying that to do so at this stage would only hinder progress in tackling the programme.

It is understood the package of policy measures will include the review of the Government’s housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland , along with extra cash for public housing in the budget. Tax incentive measures to stimulate house building by the private sector are also thought to be on the table.

Mr Murphy said he is in negotiations with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe about plans to “scale up” their “ambition” in terms of moving homeless families to more permanent accommodation.

However, he said “there’s not much I can say at the moment because we’re at that sensitive stage of negotiations”.

He also told RTÉ’s News at One that they are looking at a “couple of other solutions” to the problem as well. “We know there are a number of vacant homes that are not in use. We need to find ways to bring them back into use as quickly as possible.”

“There is a lot of vested interests working in this area. If I was to start flagging things to you now that we’re trying to do in the next two, three or four weeks they would rally against, potentially, trying to stop the things that we want to do, so I have to be careful.”

Responding to an RTÉ report yesterday in which a homeless girl appealed for housing for her family, Mr Murphy said, “I think the piece that was broadcast this morning is probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months.”

Mr Murphy said he is working with the Government to try to move families from hotels to “permanent, sustainable and long-term” accommodation. The housing minister is hosting an emergency summit of local authority leaders in Dublin on Friday to discuss the acceleration of plans for social housing.

He will also brief Cabinet colleagues tomorrow on the housing crisis, when Ministers gather for the first Cabinet meeting after the August break. Fine Gael ministers are meeting this evening in Government Buildings for discussions about the forthcoming political term.

Meanwhile, the Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said exchequer returns figures published by the Government yesterday showed the Government would have “considerable leeway” to expand public spending.

“It would be foolish to squander resources on unnecessary tax cuts at a time when vital needs must be competently addressed. Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister Donohue should not be tempted to play Santa for electoral popularity. People want housing, health and infrastructure properly provided. The Government should not be tempted to bypass these issues for short-term electoral gains,” she said.