Focus Ireland says budget 2021 must invest in housing to protect vulnerable and kickstart economic recovery from Covid-19

Focus Ireland has called on the Government to invest in social housing delivery in next week’s Budget as part of a twin-track approach which will act to protect the most vulnerable and also help kick-start the country’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

The charity said that this twin-track approach will help work to prevent a new surge in homelessness during the pandemic while also creating (and maintaining) jobs in construction and many other related sectors.

Focus Ireland said Budget action to protect nearly 9,000 homeless people is vital as services across Ireland will be very stretched if a rise of homeless figures coincides with a new surge of Covid-19 in the Winter.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Director Mike Allen said: “Budget 2021 must reckon with the cost of the damage to our economy, while ensuring that we do not inflict further harm on our society, particularly for the many who had already been left behind by the economic recovery from the last recession. In repairing the damage done, there are significant opportunities to effect meaningful structural changes and address some of the hitherto seemingly insurmountable obstacles to a fair, inclusive society. Above all, we must avoid the risk of some sections of society disproportionately bearing the brunt of the economic fall-out.’’

Focus Ireland calls for the Government to use Budget 2021 to be more ambitious in relation to the number of houses that are being built (and provided in other ways) by taking actions including the following:

  • An increased budget allocation to the Land Development Agency to be made to ensure that it has the resources to ensure that a minimum of 15% social housing, 15% cost rental and 30% ‘affordable for sale’ be provided on all LDA land.
  • Establish a fund to take into ownership buy-to-let units which are being repossessed due to landlord arrears and the tenant is already in receipt of HAP or Rent Supplement and is at risk of homelessness.

The charity said Budget 2021 must also fast-track measures that help to prevent more families from falling into poverty and homelessness. Mr Allen said: “We know that job losses put families at greater risk of homelessness. It is critical that the government acts to ensure that the employers of parents who are unable to access childcare remain flexible and keep those jobs open for their return.”

The charity’s submission calls for action to:

  • Extend eligibility for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and/or the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to parents unable to access the childcare they need to return to employment.

Meanwhile, Focus Ireland also called for Budget action to tackle family homelessness. Focus Ireland proposes a structured ‘Housing First for Families’ pilot to address the needs of the growing number of families who have been homeless for more than 24 months, many of whom have complex needs which present particular barriers to securing a home, and need intensive support to address these issues and sustain their housing.

Focus Ireland estimates the cost of providing these supports at €1.2m for 30 families. However, there are also many families who are homeless with no complex needs – although prolonged living in emergency accommodation may create such needs. A two pronged approach is needed, comprising a Housing First response for families with complex needs, and a programme of rapid rehousing for low-needs families, including prioritisation of families who are homeless for social housing allocations. This will allow families to rebuild their lives and recover from homelessness, without the need for extensive and ongoing supports.

  • Allocate €1.2m to develop, implement & evaluate a pilot ‘Housing First for Families’ response for 30 families who have been homeless for more than 2 years.
  • Introduce a Rapid Rehousing programme for families so that no family spends more than six months in emergency accommodation.

Budget action to help prevent victims of domestic violence from becoming homeless:

Focus Ireland research has found that domestic or family violence was the declared cause of homelessness for 6% of families in emergency accommodation and may be a factor in a larger number of undeclared cases. A large number of women and children fleeing domestic violence are living in emergency homeless accommodation, where neither the physical accommodation nor staff support is appropriate to their needs.

Domestic violence has increased significantly during Covid-19 containment measures, with Gardaí reporting a 25% increase in domestic violence calls earlier this year compared to the same time in 2019. It is critical that every person experiencing violence and abuse in their home knows they will be able to find safe accommodation. The charity’s submission calls for:

  • Resource a planned expansion of domestic violence refuge spaces and housing for victims, in line with the requirement under the Istanbul Convention that the State takes necessary steps to ensure access to services for victims of domestic violence, including housing.
  • Resource a domestic violence homelessness task force to include cross-departmental decision-making capacity with the Departments of Housing.

Focus Ireland has already submitted its full budget proposals to all relevant Government Ministers in recent months. This more concise document issued today outlines the key actions which the charity is calling for the Government to include in Budget 2021. You can review Focus Ireland’s Budget Submission here

Media contact: Roughan Mac Namara: 086 85 15 117

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