Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Micheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
I believe the income thresholds in terms of eligibility for social housing should be increased. As part of Housing for All, that is being examined, along with other issues pertaining to social housing as well, because the Government has a very large social housing programme under its remit. We want to build record numbers of social houses through the approved housing bodies and direct builds from local authorities every year for the next ten years, particularly in the first five years, from this year onwards.
We have provided significant resources to deal with homelessness. I would say to the authorities and those involved on the ground to use common sense and practicality. If somebody is homeless, we do not say they are no longer available for our services. That is the first point I would make. I know the Deputy raised a case yesterday and I asked that he might give that to the Minister. I will engage with the Minister on this. Practice should be informed by the spirit with which we approach homelessness overall, which is to ensure that families in particular and people generally are not without a roof, particularly in winter time.
The Housing First strategy, for example, has proved to be an enormous success. To be fair to the NGOs - the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and others - which came forward with that idea, learning from what was going on across Europe and globally, it has been a spectacular success in terms of the number of homeless who avail of the Housing First programme and who are still in housing. It is working, so we want to roll that out.
If someone who is homeless gets a job, for example, there has to be an interregnum or a period there. We should facilitate the person coming out of homelessness basically, and that would be my approach.
Across the board, the Minister has taken measures this winter in terms of homelessness. In the winter 2021 Dublin rough sleeper count, for example, there has been a fall in numbers this year so far of about 25% from the spring 2021 count, and a reduction of 45 individuals when compared with last winter.
The Deputy’s fundamental point is around the income thresholds. I think they should be increased but there is a review going on, not just of the income thresholds, to be fair, because we have to have a sustainable social housing programme right through the next decade. One thing we want to do in this Government, something I was committed to before I come into government, is directly build far more social houses than we have done in the past, and affordable houses as well. I am glad Dublin City Council has agreed a plan for Oscar Traynor Road, for example, and the 853 houses will make a big difference to the issues we are talking about.