Sunday 18 February 2018

Budget 2018 coincided with World Homelessness Day - but what do advocates make of measures to tackle the housing crisis?

Housing and homelessness organisations pleased to see some of the steps taken today but there is disappointment over the lack of measures to address vacant homes.

Tuesday's Budget announcement took place on World Homelessness Day
Tuesday's Budget announcement took place on World Homelessness Day

Sean Nolan

There was a mixed reaction from those who work on the coalface of the housing and homelessness crisis to Budget 2018.

Pat Doyle CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust said “We welcome many of the measures outlined by the Minister today including those that will, we hope, see greater delivery of social and affordable housing.”

The additional funding for the Housing Assistance Scheme (HAP) was broadly welcomed by a number of groups.

“The additional €18 million funding for homeless services and an increase in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in 2018 are particularly welcome, said Mr Doyle.

"The Housing Assistance Payment scheme is an important element towards alleviating the homeless crisis in 2018, as the results of an accelerated social housing building programme are yet to come on stream.”

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities also broadly welcomed the changes to HAP.

"The increase in funding of €149m for HAP is very welcome and must be accelerated," she said. "Preventing people from becoming homeless is absolutely key to ending this crisis. We welcome the commitment to increase funding towards HAP Placefinder as people urgently need assistance to find homes.  We await more detail on this. Any expansion of HAP is dependent on supply in the Private Rented Sector. This budget does not address the issue of rent certainty and enhanced security of tenure which is urgently needed."

And while bodies welcomed the changes to commercial stamp duty and the vacant site levy, there was criticism overt the failure to address the number of empty houses around the country.

"The Peter McVerry Trust is disappointed that an empty homes tax wasn’t announced in Budget 2018," said Doyle. "We feel that this is out of line with the Government’s vision and aim to significantly reduce the amount of homes and properties lying vacant around the country. Peter McVerry Trust believes that empty homes provide an opportunity to bring about additional housing stock at a faster and more sustainable rate."

Simon's Niamh Randall was also unhappy with the lack of an initiative on this.

"There was no mention of empty homes and particularly no mention of a vacant homes tax," said Randall.

"The full Empty Homes Plan must be published urgently now that the Budget has been announced including any revisions in the Repair and Lease Scheme. We have been waiting for this since last May. The Simon Communities have been highlighting the potential of vacant homes culminating in our Ten Point Plan published in March of this year. The use of vacant housing stock alone will not solve current crisis or prevent future housing crises. This cannot happen again. Governments must ensure the building and delivery of sustainable social and affordable housing output."

The extra €18m announced for homeless services was widely welcomed but Simon warned that "we must not be reliant on short term measures and temporary solutions. We know that moving to a secure home with support is the best way to support people to move out of homelessness."

Plans to increase social housing support were also cautiously welcomed with the Peter McVerry Trust saying: “Minister Donohoe’s statement that funding will be available from 2019 for an accelerated social housing is welcome. It’s also positive to see an increase of 3,000 units in social housing targets up to 2021.”

Head of homeless charity Focus Ireland Mike Allen also said the number of houses due to be built does not appear to be any more than it was before the Budget was announced.

"Under Simon Coveney's plan, it appears that there were 5,900 new social homes planned for next year, of which 3,000 were going to be built. Now after all of this there are going to be 3,800 built, but the total number is going to remain the same," Mr Allen said.

He added that while it was positive for the Government to commit to building houses, "the actual number of social homes that will be delivered, available to people to move out of homelessness doesn't appear to be any larger than it was before the budget".

And another group, Inner City Helping Homeless, a volunteer organisation in Dublin, was not happy with the measures announced and slammed the Budget on Twitter.

And with today being World Homelessness Day, Simon pointed out that there are over 8,000 people living in emergency accommodation in Ireland and at least 90,000 people on the social housing waiting list.

Online Editors

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