Focus Ireland report 72 families became homeless in Dublin in June as the charity welcomed the Government’s new Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness
New figures from Focus Ireland report that 72 families became homeless in Dublin in June as the charity welcomed the Government’s new Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness which aims to increase homeless prevention and deliver 47,000 social homes by 2021.
The plan comes after widespread consultation by the Government and Focus Ireland said it was positive this action was undertaken in the drafting of this new plan. The plan targets homelessness and aims to ensure that by this time next year hotels are used for families who are homeless only in limited circumstances.
However, Focus Ireland did highlight some concern at the lack of specific year on year targets and also called for action to confirm clear targets for the number of social homes to be ring-fenced to help people to escape from homelessness and secure a home. The charity made this call as its figures issued now means that 502 families with 995 children have become homeless in Dublin in the first 6 months of this year.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “There have been a number of plans over the years to tackle homelessness and this plan includes some positive measures which were also included in previous plans. This is not in itself a criticism, as they remain positive and if this plan can actually deliver them that is to be welcomed. Focus Ireland would stress that as you read the plan it becomes clear that it is a broad framework for action rather than a detailed action plan.’’
‘’This fact is acknowledged in the plan in key areas such as the Private Rented Sector – where 20% of the population live and most of the people who are homeless previously lived – where a new strategy will not be drafted until the Autumn.”
He added: “It is positive that the plan provides direction but the litmus test will be when we see roofs over people’s heads – be this through bricks and mortar by building social housing or by taking the urgent steps required to provide a better private rented sector. It will need a lot more work to tie down many of the commitments and ensure that this time they will happen. Focus Ireland is committed to working with the new Government to deliver these practical elements and delivering the core objectives of the plan.”
Focus Ireland Reaction to the New Plan in a Snapshot: Particularly welcome are:
- The clear core objectives of the plan which can create a framework for a range of actions, driven over a number of years.
- Commitments for additional supports to children in homeless families (travel passes for schools, links to Family Resource Centres, etc)
- Commitments to deliver 47,000 social housing units by 2021, with linked funding commitments
- Targets and measures to activate the private building sector moving again
- Commitments and timeframes for delivering ‘rapid build housing’
- Increased funding for mental health resources
- Increased commitment to Housing First approaches
- Commitment to CAS funding for housing young people leaving care
- New emergency accommodation for pregnant women
Some key area where additional work is required:
Many of these commitments are unclear, with no timescale or finances named. A large number of these will cost money and the level of funding will depend upon the 2017 Budget. In this context the report is timely but the actual costing of these initiatives and how they will be progressed in the budget process needs to be made clearer.
- Family Homelessness: The section on family homelessness falls far short of what is required to respond to the even deepening crisis in this area. It is unclear whether the programme action to move families who are homeless out of hotels and into rapid build housing is seen as provision of more suitable emergency accommodation or whether these units could be their final home. It is notable that the Plan makes several references to potential constitutional limitations in relation to property issues, but makes no reference to the impact of the recently introduced ‘Rights of the Child’ into the Constitution. The timescale for delivering the rapid build housing (approx. 600 units by mid 2017) and vacant private units (Housing Re-use Strategy not due until mid-2017) are hard to reconcile with the objective of ending the use of hotels by mid-2017.
- The growing cause of family homelessness is landlords evicting tenants in order to sell-up but any measures to protect families from losing their homes in these circumstances will not commence until early 2017, as the Private Rented Sector Strategy will not be completed until the end of 2016. There is no reference to the risk posed to families with children of having to sleep rough. The 72 families who became homeless in Dublin in June brings the total for the first six months of 2016 to 502.
- Who will build the social housing and when: The Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness set a target of 10,000 social houses to be built each year. This did not just increase the target in the former Government’s Social Housing Strategy, it shifted the emphasis from buying/leasing units that had been built by the private sector towards a proactive process in which Local Government and Approved Housing Bodies need to actually build the units. The Action Plan seems ambiguous on this point.
- Rent Supplement. While the increase in Rent Supplement levels in July is welcome, the plan does not set out a framework for when these limits will be reviewed again or on what basis. This creates an unnecessary and damaging uncertainty within the private rented market at a time when certainty is needed.
CONTACT: Roughan Mac Namara Advocacy Manager Focus Ireland – 086 85 15 117