The most recent figures from Focus Ireland show an extraordinary crisis in homelessness and in the lack of housing in Ireland. They show 7,167 people are homeless in Ireland as nationally 4,760 adults and 2,704 dependants are homeless. These figures are extraordinary. The total number of people who are homeless rose by 25% from January 2016 to January 2017. This indicates a complete lethargy and lack of action in dealing with an emergency for many families throughout the State. In December, 87 families became newly homeless in Dublin. On average, 72 families became newly homeless each month over the past 12 months. Focus Ireland has stated that, strikingly, every five hours in Dublin a child became homeless in January this year. That is an appalling indictment of the last Government and particularly of the initiatives that had been announced but have not borne fruit in dealing with the homelessness issue or the numbers of families who simply cannot get a house. Most Members of this Oireachtas would know - particularly after the last two months and all the hoohah before Christmas on rent control measures - that the number of families who have been given deadlines to leave their current homes in February and March this year is growing alarmingly. All the while, there has been a lack of any meaningful impact on the supply side with an extraordinary lack of public investment in providing housing infrastructure and social housing. For example, I refer to the Juncker plan, which is the European Fund for Strategic Investments, in which the EU wanted to mobilise €500 billion in infrastructural investment but the Government decided to not partake in that apart from for a few health centres. The fund was not used for public housing infrastructure or housing provision. The Department is unwilling to use public private partnership, PPP, finance and has, in my view, fairly archaic and out-of-date provisions to prevent that.
The Taoiseach might consult his former adviser, Andrew McDowell, about his views on the restrictive and conservative views of the Government in regard to mobilising and leveraging substantial investment. We have the second lowest capital spend in Europe as a result of that kind of conservatism and approach, and the housing crisis gets worse.
The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government appeared in the media at the weekend giving the Taoiseach a deadline and a timeline in terms of when he should leave office. I think it would have been far more focused of the Minister if he concentrated on what is an appalling emergency for thousands of families in this country, one that is going to get worse because of the lack of tangible action and effective outcomes from all of the strategies that have been announced.