Hotels for homeless cost €7.1m in just three months
Taxpayers paid a record €7.1m in the first three months of this year to house homeless adults and children in hotels and other emergency accommodation in the capital, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The huge bill so far this year comes as Ireland’s largest local authorities warn of an explosion in the number of homeless families with children at risk of being forced to live on the streets because of the accommodation crisis.
Dublin’s four local authorities are under “significant strain” as desperate families are squeezed out of the private residential rental market by high rents and a scarcity of supply around the capital, according to a spokeswoman for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE).
Almost half of the €7,160,191 bill for emergency accommodation for the homeless provided by Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council, was to provide short-term emergency accommodation in private hotels, apartments and B&Bs at the going commercial rate.
The total bill for private emergency accommodation alone was €3,672,652.18, which included providing temporary lodgings for 712 families, including 159 “newly presenting homeless families,” according to Environment Department’s Q1 financial report.
Dublin City Council (DCC) paid out €1.6m to house approximately 500 families with more than 1,000 children in private emergency accommodation during the first quarter of the year.
The same bill for all of 2014 was €5.3m, which DCC expects will exceed €6m this year. DRHE spokeswoman Lisa Kelleher said all local authorities in Dublin are now struggling to provide even emergency beds in hotels and B&Bs for families.
She said these families “have absolutely no supports available to them or have exhausted all supports from friends or relatives and run the risk of sleeping rough on the same day of presentation.”
The overall number of adults seeking emergency accommodation rose by 681.
The figure represents an increase of almost a third between the first quarter of 2014 and 2015 as a result of “reduced access to housing options, combined with an influx of families who would not previously have engaged with homeless services and who are presenting following the loss of private rented accommodation,” according to the DRHE’s Q1 performance report.
Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy for Focus Ireland, said it’s ultimately low-income families and the taxpayer who are paying the price for the current housing and rental crisis. “We’re paying huge amounts of money to hotel owners for families to live in totally unsuitable accommodation,” he told the Sunday Independent.
Not only is the €7.1m figure unprecedented, the problem will worsen if landlords continue to raise rent before controls are introduced — either to reap a profit from the current crisis or offset losses they incurred buying property during the boom.
Former Dublin Lord Mayor and current Dublin city councillor Christy Burke warned there may literally be no room at the inn for homeless families this autumn, unless the Department of the Environment comes through with additional funding for emergency accommodation.
“If it’s not met by October, there will be no more B&Bs,” he told the Sunday Independent.
“If there’s no room at the inn, you’re looking at an epidemic of homelessness,” he said.
Dublin City Council was told last week that it is facing an €18.5m shortfall in homeless service funding from the Government, despite promises by Environment Minister Alan Kelly — who led a summit on the city’s homeless problem last Christmas — that getting homeless people off the streets is a priority.
Richard Brady, the council’s assistant CEO for Housing and Residential Services, called the situation “serious” and has called for an urgent meeting with the minister. A spokesman for the minister said negotiations are ongoing but said DCC’s Q3 funding will be addressed “in light of expenditure actually incurred at that stage”.