By Dominic McGrath, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called on local councils to show “common sense” and ensure that anyone who finds work is not evicted from emergency accommodation.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said in the Dáil on Wednesday: “I have lost count the number of times I have raised the issue of reviewing the income thresholds for eligibility for social housing over the last four to five years.
“The stock response is, it is under review, the review will be completed shortly.”
He raised the example of a woman, living in emergency accommodation, who had been told that because her income had increased, she no longer qualified for homeless accommodation.
“The failure of successive governments to address this has now reached incredible proportions,” he said.
“You’re now not just homeless, you’re punished for working, trying to improve your situation.
“You’re out of homeless accommodation, in the teeth of Christmas. And this is happening across the country.”
Mr Martin responded: “I do believe the income thresholds, in terms of the eligibility for social housing, should be increased, I do. And as part of Housing For All, that is being examined as well as other issues pertaining to social housing.”
He said that the Government wanted to build more social houses.
Earlier this year, the Government published its Housing For All plan with a promise to dramatically increase the number of houses available in Ireland.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has repeatedly said he anticipates an increase in housing supply next year.
“In terms of homelessness, we have provided significant resources to deal with homelessness,” Mr Martin said.
“I would say to the authorities and to those on the ground to use common sense and practicality. If someone is homeless, you don’t say you’re not longer available for our services.
“I will engage with the minister on this. The practice should be informed by the spirit with which we approach homelessness overall.”
The Taoiseach said it was vital that “families, and people overall, are not without a roof, particularly in winter time”.
The People Before Profit TD asked the Fianna Fáil leader: “Will you give me a commitment that homeless families will not be evicted from homeless accommodation because they get a job and try and earn a bit of extra income?
“It is beyond belief, so urgent action needs to be taken.
“The department is terrified if they raise the threshold, more people will be eligible for social housing and it won’t look terribly good for the department.
“This will end up with social housing apartheid, because the department doesn’t want to let people on the list in order to massage the figures.”
Mr Martin said: “I have no interest in this kind of carry on, none.
“The bottom line is that I want to get people housed.
“What we’re interested in is getting houses built.
“In terms of making sure that where people are genuinely homeless right now, they shouldn’t be evicted from homeless accommodation.
“We have a lot more to do.”