[Sinn Fein]

2nd July 2003

Junior Minister buries his head in the sand over housing crisis

Speaking during Fine Gael's Private Member Business motion on Housing Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan accused Minister of State Noel Ahern of burying his head in the sand in relation to the crisis in housing saying, ``There is no hope for a resolution of this crisis if the person with responsibility for the area is all but refusing to accept that there is a crisis.''

Deputy Morgan said: ``This government has stood by for six years and watched as the housing crisis spiralled out of control.

``Watching Minister of State Noel Ahern address the Dáil last night was genuinely worrying. There is no hope for a resolution of this crisis if the person with responsibility for the area is all but refusing to accept that there is a crisis. The Minister has absolutely no idea what it is to be affected by the housing crises.

``He doesn't know what it is like to be a young couple living in private rented accommodation haunted by the knowledge that they will never be able to afford their own home; that they are not eligible for social housing; that the government will not ensure their security of tenure in the private sector; that their landlord will not allow children and therefore when they have a family they will have to struggle to find a landlord in the private rented sector who will accept them as tenants.

``He doesn't know what it is like to be a person who commutes up to 100 miles a day from a satellite town where workers have been exiled by the lack of affordable housing in our main cities - the hours spent commuting, probably driving in grid locked traffic, leaving early in the morning, getting home late at night, never seeing their children.

``Or what of the life of the person who in their old age finds that their ground rent lease has expired and find themselves struggling to hold on to the family home. Imagine Minister, the plight of a pensioner who is faced with a demand from their ground rent landlord for a sum of €54,000 for freehold interest plus legal fees of €127 per day until agreement is reached.

``There is lost generation of Irish people whose lives are an endless struggle because the government refuses to recognise their right to housing; because the government refuses to control land prices; because the government refuses to take on the speculators and because the government refuses to provide adequate levels of social and affordable housing.

``The fundamental role of a house and a home in a person's life cannot be overstated. A lack of adequate housing and homelessness are inextricably connected to increased levels of mental illness, marginalisation, and disenfranchisement. The failure to address this crisis has led to a severe decline in the quality of life of the citizens of this State.

``The Minister of State told us that there is more to housing than the price. The Minister of State further told us `it is about affordability'. How clever of the Minister to finally grasp the kernel of the problem - affordability. Yet he seems not accept that people on low and medium incomes can no longer afford to buy a house. The rise of house prices continues unabated and the Minister of State's assertions will ring very hollow with anyone who takes a cursory look in the window of their local estate agent only to find that there is not one house that they can afford. Quiet simply house prices are out of control.

``The most outrageous statement which emanated from the Minister of State last night was his assertion that the government has ``a proud record of achievement in delivering housing across the broad spectrum of housing needs''. I dare the Minister to repeat this gem of Fianna Fáil propaganda to any ordinary Irish person who is today struggling to buy a house, retain their private rented accommodation or who is sleeping on the street.'' ENDS

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