The Church should fork out some of its “vast tracts” of land to help curb the country’s housing crisis, one of Ireland’s most well-known priests has said.
Social activist Fr Peter McVerry SJ told this newspaper that while the Church is not responsible for solving the severe lack of housing across the country, it can show its concern by making a “valuable contribution” to the needed cause.
“Housing and homelessness are political problems and it has to be solved politically. It’s not for the churches or charities to solve the housing problem, though they can play a role. I would say churches should look at what land they have particularly and to see if some can be used for social housing,” he told The Irish Catholic.
He added that the Irish Church owns “vast tracts of land” and that some of this should be allocated to the building of social housing. “I say that because you can’t criticise the Government unless you’re doing something yourself.”
His comments come after it was revealed that the Department of Justice spent €3.54 million last month on emergency hotel and private accommodation for over 1,000 asylum seekers because of a lack of capacity in the direct provision system.
“I think what it highlights is that the failure of the Government to provide housing is an extremely expensive failure – all that money being spent does not create one single extra house and is money that is simply being transferred to the private sector without gain to the State whatsoever,” the founder of the Peter McVerry Trust said.
“This Government have really got to start building social housing on a massive scale far more than they envisaged.”
It was announced in 2014 that the Government would build or lease 35,000 new housing units over the period to 2020, but Fr McVerry said that until “they start thinking that way it’s going to be increasingly expensive with no result at the end of it”.