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Pay property owners €400 a month to house refugees, urges council chief

The Irish Refugee Council has urged the Government to pay people with vacant holiday homes or spare rooms between €300 and €400 a month to house Ukrainian families fleeing war.

he council’s CEO, Nick Henderson, said: “Our current reliance on hotels is more costly and not sustainable, with the estimated cost of hotel rental around €100 per room per night.”

His plea comes after the Cabinet was warned the State’s capacity to house Ukrainian refugees is nearing exhaustion.

A shortage of beds is expected by the end of this week, and it is believed as many as 10,000 people may have nowhere to stay by the end of the month.

More than 19,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland, and more are expected as the crisis continues.

Ministers were told on Tuesday that with an average of 580 refugees arriving each day, around 5,000 additional beds would be needed by Easter.

This will be on top of those already identified across hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, state facilities and accommodation from people who have promised vacant homes and rooms.

The 2016 census revealed there were 62,000 vacant holiday homes in the country, and the Irish Refugee Council has said that even if one fifth, or 12,400, of them were made available they would go a long way to housing the refugees.

Roscommon Galway TD Denis Naughten told the Dáil yesterday that, according to Daft.ie, there are 90,000 empty homes across the country with only 1,043 available to rent.

Mr Henderson suggested a figure of between €300 and €400 a month should be paid to people to release their vacant homes for use by refugees, and an allowance paid to cover extra costs for people who have pledged accommodation in their homes.

“There is no doubt that there would be a cost to this and we would be naive to stick our heads in the sand and ignore that, but our current reliance on hotels is more costly and not sustainable,” he said.

If one fifth of the vacant holiday homes in the country were made available for refugees, and the owners received a €300 per month payment, that would be a cost of €3.72m a month to the state.

“There is a huge potential in the public pledges of accommodation too, but self-sufficiency and independence for refugees should be the first option, and that is why we suggested the use of holiday homes and other accommodation,” Mr Henderson said.

“We might find that despite the huge pledges from the public that only a half or a quarter of the offers can be drawn down on, and we are urging the Government to introduce guidelines in these situations.

“From a host family’s perspective, this should include and clarify the legal situation – the supports that are needed and an exit strategy if things do not work out.

“From a refugee perspective, these guidelines need to cover their rights and entitlements as well as an exit strategy if there is a difficulty.”

The Dáil heard this week that people who have taken in Ukrainian refugees are seeing their household bills soar.

Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick, of Co Louth, said he had been approached by families, some of whom had driven to the airport to offer accommodation, who now felt isolated with no state support.

Some expected the war to last only a few weeks.

“Ireland can do this if there is leadership from the Government and there are local community supports,” he said. 

“Poland and Moldova have taken in huge numbers from Ukraine, and under a European Commission plan there is a proposal to facilitate the flexible use of funding to assist in accommodating refugees.

“We acknowledge that the Irish State’s response has been strong.

“We admire the Irish public’s show of solidarity, but we must now look at the next steps and a long-term plan.”

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