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Nama properties could 'help end homelessness'

HOMELESSNESS could be ended in weeks if properties under Nama control were used as affordable accommodation, according to a Co Down priest. Newry-born cleric Fr Peter McVerry, pictured, who works with the Dublin homeless, says increased rents are now the leading cause of homelessness in the Republic.

He made his comments at a public meeting organised by the IMPACT trade union, in which tánaiste and minister for social protection Joan Burton was the keynote speaker.

The conference held on Saturday, heard there had been a cut in capital spending on social housing in the Republic of 70 per cent between 2007 and 2012.

Fr McVerry called on the Dublin government introduce emergency rent controls to help combat the issue.

The priest and social justice campaigner argued that street homelessness could be ended if Nama properties, facilities and a number of appropriately qualified staff were provided. Sufficient appropriate accommodation could effectively deal with emergency housing issues, he said.

The cleric claimed the Fine Gael-led government's failure to control rent increases and provide tenants with a reasonable security of tenure was allowing landlords to unnecessarily evict tenants into homelessness.

He added that the Republic's Department of Social Protection, instead of being part of the solution to the homelessness crisis, was now part of the problem.

Speaking before the arrival of the tánaiste, Fr McVerry sharply criticised dormitory-style emergency accommodation made available to homeless people. "In the short term, [Ms Burton] needs to increase the rent supplement radically because it's way, way behind the market rent. I think she has to bring in rent controls that landlords cannot arbitrarily raise the rent by 10, 15 or 20 per cent."

? Editorial ? P20

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