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Murphy 'not living in the real world' with 'harsh' housing proposal, opposition TDs claim

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has come under attack for radical proposals to “punish” families on housing lists, who refuse offers, by putting back their potential waiting time by five years.

The contentious proposal was debated in the Dáil today and saw Opposition TDs round on the minister, with claims he was “not living in the real world”, and likely changes were “very harsh”.

Under the plan, social housing applicants who reject two home offers within 12 months will see their waiting period set back by five years. Currently, the sanction after two home rejections is a year extra.

Mr Murphy insisted the sanction of a one-year delay was not working and refusals by those on the list were impacting on efforts to reduce the 70,000 housing applicants on waiting lists.

But Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett claimed there was a type of “victim blaming” underway against the homeless. He cited comments by Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan who, last weekend, claimed better homeless services were attracting people.

The latest social housing proposal from the minister was an “absolute disgrace”, diverting attention away from delays and blaming victims, argued the Solidarity/PBP TD.

Mr Barrett said many families if offered a home, in a particular area, could "not uproot" their kids, especially if the offer for a home was in a location without transport or where the property was substandard, too small or not suitable in general.

He said the minister was willing to “punish” people who refused offers by making them wait another five years.

Mr Murphy, however, said the changes were part of a suite of measures, to be agreed by Government in the coming weeks. The new rules were fair for those on waiting lists and were intended to target people refusing to take up offers for “frivolous” or “spurious” reasons.

Labour's Jan O'Sullivan accused him of “not living in the real world” and said the changes were "very harsh". Despite assurances by the minister, Ms O'Sullivan said she believed local authorities would "not show flexibility" with the new rules.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy advised that the government will still hold a referendum on whether water should be protected in public ownership but that the vote must “not be rushed”.

He told the Dáil that wording for the referendum was still being worked on by the Attorney General, among others, before it is debated in Leinster House.

Fianna Fail's Darragh O'Brien pushed Mr Murphy to commit to when the vote could be held, further details about it, and when the transfer of water assets from local authorities to Irish Water would be completed.

Minister Murphy said that the government had decided against having the vote in May due to the need to get the language right over the contentious issue of group and private water schemes.

The decision to postpone the referendum has been viewed by Opposition TDs as a way to avoid any further controversy or backlash over water in the lead up to the May local and European elections.