Tuesday, 25 September 2018
Confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government: Motion [Private Members]
That is correct. I had the privilege recently of meeting with a young mother with a young child who were homeless. She told me her own personal story through tears because she felt ashamed about the situation she was in and I apologised to her because she had to spend three weeks in a hotel. She should never have been in that hotel. We were talking in the hub that she is now in and she was finding that difficult but I was able to tell her that she would be in a home soon. I was able to tell her that because every family who had gone into that hub since it had been opened less than a year ago had gone into a home and none had come back into homelessness. She was brave, bright and hopeful for the future and I tried to give her some confidence because I know that we have helped thousands of families like hers up and down this country.
In 2017, 2,000 families left hotels, the majority of them into homes. In the last 12 months, 5,000 households have exited homelessness. Thousands of homes are being built up and down the country by local authorities, housing bodies and private builders. Housing supply is going up but families will unfortunately and tragically continue to present to homeless services because we do not yet have enough homes. We are still catching up but we are catching up and until we have caught up we will put every support and every care that is necessary in place for any family or individual at risk of entering emergency accommodation or who actually does enter emergency accommodation.
I am the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I am responsible for fixing this crisis piece by piece and it is complex. Not everything has worked out like we hoped it would, such as the repair and lease scheme for example, but other initiatives have worked out better such as our fast track planning process. Progress will not always be linear and we will face setbacks. However, real, tangible progress is being made in terms of homes being built, otherwise we would not have been able to find homes for all of those families that I have mentioned. We would not have local authorities building on their own land up and down the country, or big plans for development in front of those same local authorities which are being opposed by some parties in this House. Neither would we have private homes being opened up on sites in their thousands every quarter and thousands of homes being completed as well.
More new homes will be provided this year than in any year in the past decade. Over 20,000 new places to live in will be delivered and still we have more to do. My job as Minister is to get it done but I will not be distracted by populist nonsense that contributes nothing to the challenges that we face and I will not be hounded out of office by personalised advertising campaigns and attacks against me. I know that people are hurting but if we ignore the progress that has been made for political gain or to try and feed some public outrage for our own political benefit then we risk making the mistakes of the past. We risk throwing out the good and replacing it with the failed policies that did not work before such as building giant social housing estates that only served to divide communities rather than unite and support them. I will not be responsible for that. I will not be responsible for damning another generation by making populist, short-term decisions.
Some people want to believe that this Government caused this crisis. We did not but we will fix it. Some people want people to believe that this crisis, which is more than a decade in the making, could have been solved in the 16 months since I came into office. They want people to believe that if they were in government this crisis would be solved overnight. That is dishonest and wrong and if they worked on this crisis every single day, meeting all of the people who have been so badly hurt by it and if they were the ones responsible for fixing it they would not be so deceitful to the people.
We have a plan. It is working, it can be improved and anyone in this Oireachtas is free to come forward and present alternatives for debate and agreement. This was Sinn Féin's great opportunity to bring forward its housing plan and to show the people in this Republic the positive contribution it has made but in the motion it has written and in the shallow soundbites it has given tonight, it has not done that. The public, this crisis and this Dáil deserve better than that and the Government is opposing this motion.