Focus Ireland warns “government is now further away from getting on top of housing and homeless crisis”
Focus Ireland said new figures published today showing a record total of 9,891 people who are homeless demonstrates the Government has failed to take the decisions required to ease the crisis.
The charity said while although Minister Murphy is right to draw attention to the welcome progress in many areas, he also needs to acknowledge that the continued rise in homelessness means that new and better policies are needed. The latest figures from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government reveal that 3,867 of the total number homeless are children (in 1,778 families).
Meanwhile, new Focus Ireland figures for Dublin also issued today show that four families became homeless every single day last month in the capital city. A shocking total of 122 families with 270 children became newly homeless in Dublin in July. This is the second highest monthly total for the number of families become newly homeless in Dublin since records began almost six years ago. These latest figures bring to the number of families that became newly homeless in Dublin in the first seven months of this year to a truly shocking 679 families.
Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan said: “The shocking fact that almost four families (3.9 families) became homeless every single day in July in Dublin alone really shows how far we are from getting on top of the crisis. There is some positive news as we are managing to slow down the increase in the numbers living in emergency accommodation through the hard work of staff in Focus Ireland, other homeless organisations, local authorities and the DRHE.”
“However, the main reason families are becoming homeless is that they are being evicted from losing their homes by private landlords due to properties being sold or repossessed. The only solution to this crisis is that, as a society, we must do more to keep families in their existing homes so they never become homeless in the first place.”
“Measures to prevent people becoming homeless must be further prioritised. The evidence from Focus Ireland’s own prevention work shows that it is effective. In 2017 Focus Ireland supported 614 households on the brink of becoming homeless to avoid homelessness. This work involved case management support (321 households); tenancy sustainment (208 households) and youth housing (85 households).
“The current trend of numerous evictions resulting in rising homelessness with the State responding by placing people in hotels or hubs is not sustainable. It is failing as not enough families are being rehoused. This does not take away from the very real successes; such as we helped over 1,000 households to secure a home and move on from homeless last year in partnership with the State.
Government ministers have repeatedly stated that tenants will not lose their rights where their landlord’s buy-to-let mortgage is sold to a vulture fund. This is true but misleading; it ignores the dreadful fact that in reality they had no effective rights – that would protect them – to lose. If their landlord or their landlord’s new vulture fund decides they are going to sell up, the tenants have no protection against eviction. We have been calling for action on this loophole for more than two years, and it is now time that the Government acted.
Government legislation is urgently needed to protect Irish homes from the growing threat posed by Vulture Funds. These international investment funds buy distressed properties to sell for a quick profit, and the government must clip the wings of these vultures. Focus Ireland and many other commentators have warned of a flood of evictions, and rising homelessness. We already know from statistics released by the Central Bank of Ireland that there were 13,362 buy to let mortgages more than 720 days arrears in arrears. These 13,362 buy to lets are not just mortgages, but homes for men, women and children across Ireland.
Focus Ireland has set out 3 key actions that could be taken right away to help greatly reduce the numbers becoming homeless.
- Give greater protection to tenants of buy-to-let landlords by introducing new legislation. The so called ‘Focus Ireland’ amendment sets out a well-considered model for achieving this. Focus Ireland drafted an amendment to the Planning & Development Bill which was considered in the Dáil in December 2016. If it had been passed then it would have prevented well over 350 families – and many individuals from becoming homeless since then. (Buy-to-let homes would have to be sold or repossessed with tenants in situ as is the case for commercial properties).
- Provide funding to Approved Housing Bodies and Local Authorities to purchase buy-to-let loans from vulture funds where the tenants are eligible for social housing and faced with homelessness, thus bringing these units into publicly owned housing stock.
- Better enforcement of current legislation: where families present as homeless to local authorities showing Notice of Terminations which give ‘landlord selling’, ‘renovations’, or ‘landlords family moving in’ as reasons, the local authority should verify whether these actions take place, and take legal action of the reasons turn out to be false. Also run an awareness campaign directed at landlords setting out the penalties for false use of these reasons for eviction.
Editor’s note: the highest ever number of families becoming newly homeless in Dublin was 125 in January 2016. This was recognised as an exceptional figure linked to an exceptionally low figure in the previous month (41 in December 2015). For administrative reasons the July 2018 figures also includes some element of families which actually became homeless in June (13 families) but is part of a consistent pattern of rising homelessness.
‘Newly homeless families’ refers to families that have not been recorded as being homeless in the official records (PASS). In practice this generally means that they have not been homeless in the previous two years. The number of families that become homeless in July 2018 and had been homeless previously was 11. The full data on newly homeless families is available here
Media Contacts: Roughan Mac Namara (0868515117) or Alan Neary (0864680442).