Irish government targets 20k holiday homes for Ukrainian refugees

Ireland: The Irish Government wants to find up to 20,000 holiday homes that can be allocated to housing refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, following suggestions that the current system in place is not sufficient to resolve the issue.

It comes as more than 62,000 people have arrived in the country from Ukraine since the war began in February and that figure is expected to rise by a further 10,000 when the cold winter sets in, according to The Irish Times. Meanwhile, around 5,500 refugees are said to have been staying in private rooms or houses over the last nine months as part of a hosting initiative led by the Irish Red Cross.

Despite pledges of support from potential hosts, many claim to have experienced long delays in receiving final approval from the state and local authorities to offer accommodation due to bureaucracy at council level.

Under the new proposed plan, homeowners will be asked to register on offerahome.ie before being directed to the relevant local authority in order to streamline the process that matches up hosts and refugees. At the same time, recognition payments for hosts  are set to double to €800 a month.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, the voluntary organisation that ran an initiative for housing refugees in Ireland was typically handling around 150 applications a year but thousands more rental properties will now be required to accommodate those fleeing the war. According to an internal briefing document seen by The Irish Times, there are more than 65,000 holiday homes in Ireland, however with the majority being rented out commercially for direct bookings or on third-party online travel agencies [OTAs], the document highlighted 20,000 homes as being a more realistic housing goal.

Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Integration, and Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, have pledged their support for the scheme, including providing more resources and staff to speed up the process.

As Ireland’s system for housing refugees has come under increasing pressure from the crisis, sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, protests have also broken out across the country with residents objecting to accommodating refugees and asylum seekers en masse in certain locations.

While O’Gorman and O’Brien recognised these tensions, they said that the government had a “moral and legal obligation to provide shelter to people fleeing war” and that “the alternative option is to leave people without homes” in a wartime situation.

Similar concerns over the provision of housing to Ukrainian refugees were raised in the UK in August, shortly after Ukraine’s Independence Day, which marked the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion. While the UK Government called for more people to join the Homes for Ukraine scheme and take refugees into their homes, it was reported that more people were becoming reticent to sign up due to the cost of living and the supposed lack of additional financial support for hosts.