Belfast Telegraph

Government called to account by housing campaigners over shortage of homes

Minister Simon Harris has rejected allegations the Government is out of touch over the housing crisis, as another derelict property was occupied.

Minister Simon Harris rejected allegations the Government is out of touch over the housing crisis, as another derelict property was occupied by activists in Dublin.

The property at 34 North Frederick Street had been occupied by protesters for almost two weeks, when an injunction was passed on Tuesday against the occupiers, and came into effect on Wednesday at 1:30pm.

A rally to defend the occupation was held on Wednesday afternoon with over 50 people attending.

Inside the building, activists wore masks of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s faces, while a banner read: “10,000 welcomes from 10,000 homeless”.

The banner referenced the fact that July’s homelessness figures, to be published by the Government this week, may top 10,000 for the first time since records began.

Although Gardai did attend the property, the occupants had not been moved by Wednesday afternoon.

Organisers say they want: “To continue to highlight the causes of this crisis, one of which is land hoarding and speculation by private owners.”

This is the second occupation of its kind this month, as activists took over a property in Dublin’s Summerhill Parade in early August.

On Wednesday, Minister for Health Mr Harris denied the allegations that the Government was out of touch with those directly effected by the crisis.

“It’s not true, we need to be judged on actions we are taking, Minister Murphy is working extraordinarily hard to roll out a major programme of social housing building.

“It’s interesting that it has been somewhat airbrushed that one of the deepest scars from the recession is the housing crisis.

“We had a situation where previous governments ran the Irish government on economy on the back of property revenue.

“We had a situation where we had an over supply or houses, ghost estates and bad planning, and then a complete drought when it came to housing production.

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A general view of construction work (Niall Carson/PA)

“I’m very clear both as a constituency TD and as a member of government, we need to get back into real substantial programme of building social housing.

“I know people right across country, and family members who grew up in their council home, had an opportunity to buy their house and embed themselves in their community.

“That’s what we need to get back to.

“In recent years because of lack of supply, we’ve seen the private rental market sector being used, and it’s appropriate that it’s used in the short term, but we need a major programme of house building.

“Local authorities have been set very ambitious targets for building social housing and we need them to come on stream as quick as possible.

“There is no doubt that there is a very major housing crisis, Minister Murphy has said that on a number of occasions and the Government is doing anything and everything it can do to increase supply.

“That is the key to solving this situation, and learning from past mistakes.”

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