Charity Demands Cash For Homeles

Homeless charity Focus Ireland today called on Finance Minister Brian Cowen to earmark €2bn in the upcoming Budget for social housing. With the Exchequer awash with billions more euro than forecast, campaigners said the money should be used to build 10,000 homes for the poor during 2007.

And they also want to see Mr Cowen increase the cap on rent supplements to protect families forced to make under the counter payments to landlords.

Declan Jones, chief executive of the charity, warned there are still over 5,000 homeless people in Ireland.

“Budget 2007 is the legacy budget for this current Government and it must include effective measures to meet the challenge of helping to end homelessness and tackle the housing waiting lists,” he said.

Focus Ireland said 43,684 households are waiting for a new home with at least 35,954 children in need of proper housing.

And Mr Jones claimed that even with these unacceptable figures out of 400,000 houses built in Ireland since 2002 only 27,752 were social housing units.

“Focus Ireland believes that without a major step up in investment these current housing needs are in danger of becoming long-term,” he said.

“This could see a future increase in the risk of homelessness for some of those living in housing poverty.”

As regards rent supplements Mr Jones said the cap had to be increased to match the real rents being charged in the private sector.

“Focus Ireland works with people all the time who have to top up insufficient rent supplement payments with under the counter payments to landlords just to keep a roof over their family’s heads,” he said.

And he offered an example where a mother rents a house for her family officially for €900 a month. But the landlord returns with a second lease this time for €1,200 which she is ordered to keep hidden while paying the extra €300 or risk losing the roof over her head.

Focus Ireland’s also called for;

  • An extra €10m for greater support for all homeless families with children to ensure their needs are met and that young people leaving care do not become homeless.

  • Invest in the regulation and registration of private rented housing to increase standards by expanding the Private Rented Tenancies Board budget allocation.

  • Increase the funding limits for social housing providers to reflect real development costs.