Updated: 03/05/18 : 13:45:07
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Housing minister accused of manipulating the homeless figures

Sinn Féin has accused the Minister for Housing of knowingly manipulating the homeless figures to ensure they do not breach the 10,000 mark in a bid to protect his own political reputation.

The party's Housing Spokesperson, Eoin Ó Broin, has called on Minister Eoghan Murphy to apologise and to correct the record.

In March there were 9,681 people, including 3,646 children, homeless.

However, Mr Murphy said a number of local authorities had erroneously categorised individuals and families living in local authority owned or leased housing stock as being in emergency accommodation.

This resulted in 600 people being removed from the homeless figures.

RTÉ reports that Sinn Féin said these people are in emergency accommodation because they do not have a tenancy.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Ó Broin accused the minister of disrespecting homeless families and "dishonestly" massaging the numbers.

The Department of Housing has confirmed too that this accommodation is being paid for out of emergency funds by local authorities.

However, a spokesperson for the minister has insisted these people are not homeless.

He said they are living in a local authority or a leased private property and they will only have to leave when a long-term tenancy is found for them.

He added that it may not be "their forever home" but it is a home.

Earlier correspondence circulated to members of Louth County Council revealed that local authority still considers this group of people to be homeless.

A leaked memo said the Council had been actively seeking private houses to provide alternatives to hotel and B&B environments.

It states: "At the end of March, 100 households, including 32 children, were accommodated in this fashion.

"It is important to note that the Council still consider these individuals as homeless and in all cases are planning their ultimate accommodation to be delivered through HAP.

"For the March national figures the Department requested all Local Authorities not to include these households in the figures reported."

Meanwhile, Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English has said almost 4,000 new-build social houses are currently on-site and his department is on target to deliver a total of 31,000 units longer term on State-owned lands.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Minister English disputed figures put forward that the State could build 114,000 houses on NAMA-controlled lands and local authorities lands.

The minister said the Department of Housing has spent a year profiling "site by site" which ones need infrastrucure and planning and overcoming barriers so that building can begin.

He said the plan is to be on-site in under 59 weeks on each site to build out lands as quickly as possible.

He said that local authorities are being asked to treble the number of sites being developed for social housing.