THE Government will listen to charities working at the coalface of the housing crisis and solve the problem within three years, a minister has vowed.
Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English visited Penny Dinners this afternoon to participate in a homelessness workshop.
The Fine Gael TD sat down with stakeholders and volunteers of Penny Dinners to discuss the housing crisis and how they can help the Government tackle the problem.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr English explained that the work of charities such as Penny Dinners shows that the Government needs to interact more with volunteers at the coalface of the crisis.
He said: “The guys here are doing great work looking after them and we want to engage more with them.
“We don’t want people in these situations, we want to help them out of that and help them to get their life back on track, a job that might pay them more money, pay their bills, help them find them a home or a house — that’s the focus of our work.”
Mr English admitted that the housing crisis is “an emergency” and they are not hiding from that fact but feels that it will be resolved in the next two to three years.
“If this were two years ago, I’d have said run away. We had realised this a couple of years back and the first chance we got when money came in, we started putting plans in place to make changes that by this year and next year and the year after, we will have houses.”
He continued: “I have no problem putting my hand on my heart, telling you, we won’t have a housing crisis in three years’ time or maybe even two years’ time.”
Mr English said he feels homeowners are afraid to talk to their banks when they are financially struggling to stay on top of their mortgage and other bills, not realising they can receive help from banks and would be protected by law.
Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitríona Twomey urged the minister to declare a state emergency or crisis. She urged the minister to share what he had during the workshop to a wider audience and educate them.
There are already plans to follow up with Mr English.
Fiona Chambers, head of the School of Education at UCC, will be meeting with Mr English to discuss the proposals to help tackle the crisis and is looking forward to what happens next.
“We have some very interesting ideas we’d like to experiment with and I know he’d be willing to support them as long as they are viable. I’m looking forward to the next steps,” said Ms Chambers.
Ms Twomey told The Echo: “He will act on what we spoke about today, he made that very clear. He wants to see us next week rather than next month.
“With that commitment from the minister, we feel we’re now in a position to really start moving things along.”
Ms Twomey added: “I feel that especially in the last year, hope has been battered but today, today was a turning point.”