In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD for the People Before Profit Alliance has condemned what he described as the abysmal failure of the government to address the worsening housing and homelessness crisis.

Deputy Boyd Barrett’s statement came in response to new figures showing a 55% increase in the number of children in homeless services since June of last year – with now over 1400 children homeless, including 411 families and 911 children in Dublin.

Deputy Boyd Barrett, who has repeatedly warned of an impending social housing and homelessness crisis since he was elected to the Dail in 2011, said the worsening crisis was a direct result of government policy, particularly the decision by Minister Joan Burton to reduce rent allowance caps in 2012 and the prior decision in July 2011 to effectively abandon direct council provision in favour of reliance on private landlords and private leasing schemes.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said the new HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme currently being rolled out by the government to deal with the housing crisis would further worsen the situation over the coming period.

Deputy Boyd Barrett called on the government and, particularly Minister’s Alan Kelly and Joan Burton, to admit their disastrous mistakes and radically alter their current policy approach to the deepening crisis.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said only an immediate increase in the rent caps, the introduction of rent controls, the requisitioning of empty properties and an emergency programme of council house construction, using the billions in cash reserves held by NAMA, could begin to address both the short and long term situation.

Richard Boyd Barrett said:

“The dramatic and disastrous increase in the number of families and particularly children forced into homelessness is the latest evidence of the utter and abysmal failure of government policy in the area of homelessness and housing. It is an utter disgrace that children, young families and vulnerable individuals are being forced into the most desperate of situations as a direct result of government policy. Everything this government has done since getting into power has made a bad situation worse, and it was all entirely predictable.”

The policy decision to abandon the direct provision of council housing in 2011 started us on the road towards this crisis and then the decision to reduce rent allowance caps made it absolutely certain.

Yet despite the dire consequences of these policy decisions, Joan Burton and Alan Kelly have decided to continue the same polices that led us to the current crisis.

Joan Burton’s decision not to increase rent allowance caps was utterly inexplicable and guaranteed a worsening of the situation. Similarly, Alan Kelly’s decision to rely almost entirely on private landlords and developers under the new HAP’s and leasing schemes will further exacerbate the crisis over the coming months.

The only way to deal with this crisis in both the short and long term is to raise the rent allowance caps now and then move immediately to introduce rent controls, requisition empty properties and use NAMA’s billions in cash reserves to finance a massive emergency programme of direct council house construction.”housing