Friday 30 September 2016

Scheme rejected by campaigner houses 13,000

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

HELP: Erica Fleming was offered apartment in Clontarf. Photo: Tony Gavin
HELP: Erica Fleming was offered apartment in Clontarf. Photo: Tony Gavin

More than 13,000 people have been accommodated by local authorities in the past two years under the taxpayer-funded housing scheme rejected by homeless campaigner Erica Fleming.

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The Sunday Independent last week revealed details of an internal Dublin City Council (DCC) report which showed Ms Fleming turned down two offers of accommodation as she did not want to be housed by a private landlord.

The mother-of-one, who lives in a hotel room with her daughter, rejected an offer of a two-bedroom apartment in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.

Under the scheme, local authorities pay private landlords directly to house tenants who cannot afford accommodation. In some cases, when possible, tenants contribute to the rent.

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show 13,412 people have been housed through the HAP scheme since it was first introduced in 2014.

Since the start of the year, 6,398 people have been housed by the scheme and the total cost of the programme is expected to come to €48m for 2016.

Another 56,000 people receive rental allowance.

Tenants in rental accommodation under the HAP scheme have the same legal entitlements as private renters.

This includes a freeze on rent hikes for two years and an obligation on a landlord to justify any increases.

It also means tenant leases cannot be terminated unless the property is being sold or given to a family member of the landlord.

In most instances, tenants are required to source their own property and then approach the council to avail of HAP.

However, the property in Clontarf offered to Ms Fleming was sourced through the Dublin Place Finder Service.

The Place Finder Service locates private rental properties for homeless households which are then paid for through HAP.

But, unlike the general HAP scheme, Place Finder will also pay the deposit and first month's rent to help secure the accommodation.

"Levels of support available under the pilot scheme for homeless households in Dublin are 50pc above the current rent supplement levels, in recognition of the difficulty such households can have in securing suitable properties," a Department of Housing spokesman said.

There are currently 400 households in Dublin supported by this service.

Ms Fleming first told the Sunday Independent she was not offered any accommodation by Dublin City Council and then refused to comment when asked about the offers made by the Place Finder Service.

However, writing on a news website last week, she said she rejected the scheme as she believes it did not offer "security of tenure".

Ms Fleming said her "only ask" of the council is that she be given a "lease that would guarantee the rent remained static or at least within DCC's rent limit over the next five years".

She said she understood there are people trying to pay rent without State support, but said she is not responsible for a system that is "punishing working people".

Her comments followed shocking new figures from Focus Ireland which showed there are more than 2,000 children living in emergency accommodation in Dublin.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen called on the government to take more action to address the scandal of homeless families.

"It is shocking to think that we now have a record number of 2,020 children living in emergency accommodation - a lot of whom will be going back to school in the next few weeks and trying to cope with the stress of being homeless," Mr Allen said.

The Government has pledged to build more than 47,000 social housing units over the next six years as part of its €5.5bn plan to address the homeless crisis.

Sunday Independent

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