Focus Ireland Welcomes Rebuilding Ireland Progress Report Which Outlines Positive Work
Focus Ireland welcomed the publication today by the Government of the latest progress report for the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness which outlines some positive developments.
The charity said the fact that 810 people/families got new tenancies under the Homeless Housing Assistance Payment in Dublin during 2016, exceeding the target of 550 – is one very welcome success.
However, Focus Ireland warned that while there has been real progress in initiating action the report does not adequately reflect the reality on the ground is the overall homeless situation is getting worse. The most recent figures show the number of people homeless in Ireland is now over 7,000 for the first time as the crisis is deepening.
The charity said the failure of the report to acknowledge the real life experience of so many people ultimately acts to undermine many people’s belief in the very real progress that is being made despite the challenging crisis.
Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “In a time of crisis it can be hard to remember there is still much good work being done. The Rebuilding Ireland progress report highlights some of this positive work. Focus Ireland is a key part of this work. Even during this awful family homelessness crisis we helped to change the lives of over 230 families by supporting them to move out of homelessness into homes (in partnership with the DRHE and local authorities) in the first ten months of last year. However, there is still much work to be done to end this homeless crisis.”
In particular Focus Ireland has argued that a more comprehensive and ambitious strategy is required to address the scale of family homelessness. The current programme which essentially involves commissioning of brand new homeless accommodation for families is no real answer.
Focus Ireland said that the progress report also highlights much good work being done to prevent families and single people from becoming homeless. However, the charity highlighted that rapidly increasing rents and a growing number of buy-to-let homes being either repossessed or sold is still causing a continued rise in the numbers being forced into homelessness.
The charity said that while the Government has taken some action by introducing the rent pressure zones to try and ease rent inflation it is still very unclear if this will be enough. Focus Ireland warned that there is currently seems to be no monitoring of landlords to check if they are abiding by the new 4% rent cap in the rent pressure zones. The charity said its frontline staff are already dealing with cases which seem to suggest some unscrupulous landlords are ignoring the rent cap and hiking up the rent while telling tenants to either pay up or leave.”
Focus Ireland also added that the Government missed an opportunity to take a massive step to prevent many people from becoming homeless. At the end of last year the government voted down an anti-homeless amendment the charity had proposed for the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016. This amendment was submitted and supported by a number of TD’s it called on the Government to change the law to protect tenants in buy-to-let properties. The so called ‘Focus Ireland amendment’ sought to stop banks – and other financial institutions- from being able to repossess buy-to-let homes and evict the tenants. It also would have well stopped landlords from evicting to sell with vacant possession.
Mr. Allen said: “We welcomed the Government’s “Tyrrelstown Amendment’ which provides that landlords seeking to sell 10 or more properties over a six month period cannot evict a sitting Part 4 tenant to sell with vacant possession. However, our staff report that most of the evictions from buy-to-let tenancies are by landlords with 1 or 2 properties. As our amendment was voted down this has left many people at risk and more people becoming homeless.”