Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Families chose to be homeless to skip queues'

Council letter highlights housing stunt

Rachel Lavin

Published 10/07/2016 | 02:30

Letter: Owen Keegan contacted minister over crisis Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Letter: Owen Keegan contacted minister over crisis Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Some families in need may have purposefully made themselves homeless in order to access social housing more quickly, according to a letter sent on behalf of the chief executives of Dublin's four local authorities.

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The letter, which was sent on April 22, urged the then Minister for the Environment not to renew a directive which allowed for 50pc of social housing to be allocated to the homeless.

It stated: "It is our view that this requirement is now having the effect of encouraging some households, who are in housing need and who are awaiting social housing, to enter the 'homeless' system in the mistaken belief that this will hasten the allocation to them of a social housing unit.

"In some cases, the accommodation being exited by these households is superior to the emergency accommodation that can be made available," it said.

The letter was signed by Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan and copied to the chief executives of Fingal Co Council, South Dublin Co Council and DLR Co Council.

Since the letter was sent, the ministerial directive which was introduced in January 2015, was not renewed and the power to decide over the distribution of social housing has been returned to local authorities.

This comes as homelessness, and the costs associated with it, continue to rise as the Government struggles to regain control of the ongoing housing crisis.

The number of homeless people housed in hotel rooms in the Dublin region has nearly doubled since last summer, with 622 families recorded as living in hotel rooms for emergency accommodation in May of this year.

And the cost of housing the homeless in hotels is set to nearly triple this year, with the Department of the Environment estimating a spend of €46.8m for hotel rooms in the Dublin region in 2016 - nearly three times last year's spend of €16.5m.

Meanwhile, Dublin's local authorities spent nearly €1.5m on housing-authority homeless-services provisions in the first three months of the year - including a total of €29,165 on sleeping bags - and they expect to spend more than €8.5m in 2016.

In an effort to tackle the growing homelessness crisis, the Government is preparing to launch its Action Plan on Housing after lengthy consultations. Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said it will be launched in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, some initiatives have already begun. The Government recently stepped up its efforts to keep people in their homes by increasing the maximum rent limits under the Rent Supplement scheme as of July 1 in a bid to help with rising rents, which included an average rent increase of 29pc in Dublin and 21pc in Cork and Galway city.

There are currently 55,000 people in receipt of the rent supplement at an estimated cost of over €267m for 2016. This new measure is estimated to cost €15m this year.

Sunday Independent

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