Family Hubs will not solve the housing crisis, but instead deepen and 'normalise' homelessness. Instead, the Government must abandon its reliance on the 'the market' and intervene directly in order to solve this crisis.
This is the message from Sinn Féin Seanad spokesperson on Housing, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, and Joe Loughnane, Galway representative of People Before Profit, who are both highly critical of the Government proposals to tackle homelessness through the controversial Family Hubs programme.
Family hubs are group homes for homeless families which were first announced by the Government earlier this year. Eighteen hubs are being rolled out in Dublin in order to end the widespread use of commercial hotels and B&Bs for housing homeless families. Such hubs may yet be introduced in Galway, pending how they turn out in the capital.
However, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in a new report, raised concerns about the hubs and long-term family homelessness, saying the hubs could ‘normalise’ family homelessness.
Mr Loughnane was highly critical of the proposed hubs saying they are "set to become the new poor law institutions of the future". Sen Ó Clochartaigh described them as "the next 'direct provision' for poor families".
In further bad news for the Government's policy of hoping 'the market' will solve the housing crisis, a new study by Maynooth University's Dr Rory Hearne and Dr Mary P Murphy, Investing In The Right To A Home, highlighted how ‘the “major reliance” of successive governments on the private sector to provide social housing has contributed to the problems now facing the State. The authors also claim Government policy will cause the housing crisis to escalate over the next five years.
Furthermore CSO figures in relation to residential property prices show hikes of 11.9 per cent nationally in the cost of houses in the last year, with an 18.2% increase in the West. Meanwhile, a recent report by Sherry FitzGerald, showed house prices in Galway increased by 4.9 per cent since January. A report by Daft.ie showed the average house price in Galway city is now more than €268,000 - the highest in Connacht - representing a 13.4 per cent increase since June 2016.
"These price increases are squeezing hard working families out of the market and into an already overcrowded private rental sector," said Sen Ó Clochartaigh. "It is time the Government face up to its failing policies and redirect energies into initiatives that won’t do more damage."
People Before Profit is calling for "decisive State intervention", including a major programme of council house building; a freeze on all rent rises; a reduction of rents to 2011 levels; and "proper protection from vulture funds" for tenants and mortgage holders.
"The Government’s policies of relying on the private market to solve the housing crisis has failed," Mr Loughnane said. "That same private market gave us the Celtic Tiger bust – so it is hardly surprising that it won’t solve the current housing crisis."