http://www.newstalk.com/listen_back/9/35056/03rd_April_2017_-_High_Noon_Part_1/ (Interview with Simon Coveney, Min for Housing)
Minister for Housing & Local Government, Simon Coveney, talked to broadcaster & presenter George Hook on the Newstalk show ‘High Noon’ on the 3rd April in relation to the twin issues of Housing & Homelessness.
I was listening to George Hook on the ‘High Noon’ show today whilst driving home from work. He was talking to Simon Coveney about housing and homelessness. It was an interesting interview as I’d never actually heard or perhaps paid attention to Simon Coveney talking before and he struck me as an idealistic politician who did genuinely want to do something about this crisis and had some good ideas…It’ll be interesting to see if he can deliver on what he is promising to do but I’ll try to keep an open mind on it….We’re often very quick to criticise in this country and particularly when it comes to politicians but very few of us, if push came to shove, would be able to offer any solutions and/or be prepared to actually do something about it…. So I listened to what he had to say with probably more interest and attention than I would have otherwise done.
George asked him about his plans around housing and one of the first things he mentioned was that there was now a new Repair and Leasing initiative for owners of unused/derelict properties. What I gathered was that this initiative enables property owners who wish to sell or rent their properties but who can’t afford to make the necessary repairs and do them up to apply to their Local Authority who will fund the cost of doing it up (up to €40 K). George then asked why there were so many vacant/ derelict properties around the country (Census 2016 figures stated that there were almost 260,000 vacant homes across the country) at a time when there were huge numbers of homeless in the streets and entire families living in hotels as a result of the shortage of suitable housing and the spiralling costs of housing. This seemed like a fairly valid question and one I’ve wondered about myself on many occasions. At the weekend myself and my boyfriend were walking up around the area of Arbour Hill in Dublin and within a 1 km radius, I’d estimate we saw at least 100 vacant properties (houses and blocks of flats)! I was intrigued to hear what his answer to that would be and Simon said that the reason was because a lot of the properties were caught up in probate and/or their owners couldn’t afford to make the necessary repairs to to then rent or sell them…. So on the face of it, this ‘Repair & Leasing’ initiative seems like a good idea, though you’d imagine most people who do own these properties, would rather sell them than rent them, for obvious reasons!
Then George went on to ask him about homelessness and asked him what he and the Government were doing about the fact that we now have an unprecedented situation in the country, where there are 2.5 thousand children living in hotels along with their parents because their parents can’t afford rent or to get a mortgage and there is a huge lack of affordable housing. Coveney mentioned that one reason for the situation was because not enough starter homes were being built by developers (who don’t make nice profit margins on starter homes ) but that now 10% of any new housing developments would by law have to be designated social housing (again seems like a good idea in theory but is that enough to reduce the numbers living in hotels and on waiting lists for social housing?) and that this year the housing budget had been increased by 50%. He also boldly claimed that by the middle of this year, there would be no more families living in hotels and that this would be achieved by providing Social Housing, Housing Assistance Payments, creating Family Support Hubs (where families would work with staff to get into Social Housing and in the meantime could avail of counselling and Homework Clubs etc for their children). In the last part of the interview, Coveney stated that he wanted to see more diverse and mixed communities where people who availed of Social Housing lived side-by-side with people who owned their own homes and were private owners. I had to admire his idealism on this point but I couldn’t help but wonder if the average middle-class homeowner would not then object to living next to single parents with troubled children, the unemployed, travellers and/or drug addicts who might make up a large percentage of the people availing of Social Housing?! That’s not to say that only people who fit into those broad categories would avail of Social Housing but I imagine that there would certainly be an element of that!
What do you think? How would you feel as a new homeowner if you found out that your next door neighbour was a former drug addict and is a single parent with 2 difficult teenagers, both of whom regularly get into trouble at school and with the authorities? I’m being a little controversial here I know but I’m curious as to how people might react…!
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