As local election polling day fast approaches, Athlone Sinn Féin candidate, Padraig Hegarty has outlined the housing and homelessness crises as campaign priorities and are topical subjects as his door-to-door canvass continues.
“Athlone has become something of a rent pressure zone and it is only getting worse by each passing week and is one of the biggest issues on the doorsteps. Housing and the increased visibility of people being lowered to begging on the streets to make their ends meet is highlighting the current regimes inability or lack of interest in fixing the matter.,” Padraig remarked.
The local election aspirant noted that recent homeslessness figures do not take into account certain features pertaining to this ongoing issue.
“Recent figures do not take into account people who are shacked up in cramped accommodation, families who have moved back to the family home because rent, never mind a mortgage is completely out of their grasp,” Padraig continued.
Further to this, the Athlone Sinn Féin candidate condemned the Rebuilding Ireland strategy.
“We are told that it is working, yet we have never had a housing crisis of this magnitude. The people to whom I speak on the doorsteps are sick of platitudes and empty promises, Councils have had powers stripped away from them significantly over the past decade and as a result, most have to jump through hoops to get anything done, yet when challenged, the current Government will put the onus on to the local authorities, so in effect, Peter will blame Paul and Paul will subsequently blame Peter. It is causing heartache, poverty and has detrimental impacts on our nations mental health,” Padraig reflected.
The local aspirant is calling for the Rebuilding Ireland plan to be torn asunder and a better strategy be implemented for our most vulnerable.
“People are living in fear, those in rented accommodation have little to no security in their tenancy and many are only a weeks wage away from living on the street. The HAP scheme has failed renters beyond belief and potential tenants face discrimination when they mention they are in receipt of that payment and while it is illegal for any landlord to refuse the HAP scheme, the question has to be asked, how do we even police that?
“The cost of rent in Athlone has increased by approximately 32 percent in the past three years, the national percentage in wage increase has been one percent and with figures released this week, it has been highlighted that two-thirds of the 26 counties are getting paid below the national average wage.
“A full inquiry into why all housing developments were stalled or not permitted to go ahead needs to be investigated and the electorate needs to know why houses that could be made into homes are lying idle around Athlone and the wider constituency. All too often we hear of the developments that are going through, but rarely is it mentioned which ones have been blocked but then again, what Councillor wants to announce bad news and upset his or her voters.
Sinn Féin’s Better For Housing document sets out a series of visionary and principled steps to deal with the housing crisis and plan strategically for the future, with proposals such as a massive social housing build programme for the State, 2030-Project 100,000, which would increase the social and affordable housing stock and eradicate huge housing lists.