Saturday 24 February 2018

Government to offer homeless families in Dublin the chance of house in rural counties

Minister for Housing outlines new strategy to deal with homeless crisis

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Ian Begley

The government will offer homeless families from Dublin the chance of a house in rural counties, in a radical bid to ease the current crisis.

At Friday's Housing Summit, Minister Eoghan Murphy said he will be giving homeless families the opportunity to move out of the city. 

Those wishing to move to other parts of the country will be assisted under the first part of this new housing strategy.

'The Place Finder Service' was previously discussed in the Programme for Government talks.

This voluntary relocation programme will be open to families who are either homeless, on the social housing list or currently living in emergency accommodation. 

"We believe that there is an appetitive from people who are either on the social housing list or homeless or in emergency accommodation to relocate out of the current areas they're in," said Minister Murphy. 

"You can have someone originally from Mayo, for example, but now [currently living] in Dublin. He's on the social housing list, but wants to go back to Mayo."

The Minister added that this relocation strategy is part of a plan to house people into "a stable long-term accommodation in another part of the country".  

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Read more: Former Lord Mayor swaps chains of office for chains of protest over homeless crisis

Each local authority will assist these homeless households who wish to relocate to access a suitable property, as well as providing them with advice and support in establishing their new lives in a different local authority area. 

The Minister said this will require cross agency and local authority cooperation and will be part of a broader rural regen

In a range of measures and promises announced this afternoon, the Housing Minister said an extra 200 extra emergency beds will be delivered for homeless people by December. 

Minister Murphy also pledged to build an extra 800 social homes next year bringing the total from 3,000 to 3,800.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the increase in social houses being built "won’t be enough" to fix the problem this year.

"We’re now going to be building between 2,000 and 3,000 this year which is four times more than two years ago but obviously we acknowledge that level of response isn’t enough and we’re going to add to that next year and the years ahead," he said.

 “It is absolutely the case that the lack of supply is a fundamental problem. 

“For many years, seven or eight years, almost no houses were built by the Government, or very few and almost no houses were built by the private sector and that was a consequence of the economic collapse which was not caused by this Government.

Some 8,160 people, including almost 3,000 children, are homeless, according to recent figures.

The numbers exclude rough sleepers, with about 200 people on average thought to be on the streets of Dublin every night. 

The Government report on homeless people in emergency accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, hostels and family hubs in July revealed 1,429 families were affected by the crisis. 

There were 905 single parents and 2,973 children.

Read more: Number of homeless has reached all-time high

A new inter-agency group will also be established as part of the new housing strategy to oversee homeless services.

This new agency will ensure transparency and delivery of various funding streams from departments and agencies to frontline services.

For those in mortgage arrears, a new Mortgage to Rent scheme is coming and will be announced before the end of the month. 

More than 50,000 mortgage holders are in arrears for 90 days or more, figures from the Central Bank show.

The latest figures from the Housing Agency show that 91,600 households are on council housing waiting lists across the State. 

While the highest number are in the urban areas, hundreds languish on waiting lists in less-populated counties including Leitrim (363), Roscommon (560), Cavan (761) and Longford (644).

However, the most recent assessment of unfinished housing developments suggest that as many as 1,300 units could be suitable for social housing.

The highest number are in Donegal at 260, followed by 155 in Cork and 129 in Clare. Units are available across most counties outside the major urban areas.

Landlords seeking to move tenants out of their properties will first have to inform the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

The RTB will write to the tenants with advice and guidance on what to do if they are having difficulty in accessing alternative accommodation.

Primacy care, mental health and addiction services will be extended with the objective of it being available in more facilities in 2017 and 2018. 

A further €10m in funding for more Family Hubs is being ring-fenced, as demand arises from Local Authorities, to be drawn this year.

Minister Simon Harris plans to increase his department's annual social inclusion budget for homelessness to €36m in 2018. 

This amounts to an increase of 20pc since 2015.  

Throughout the lifetime of the plan, Minister Murphy said he is confident that 20,000 new homes will be built directly by local authorities and housing bodies.

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