March Homeless Report makes for more ‘gloomy’ figures especially in Dublin

€1bn announced for housing by government merely part of €1.52 underspend

by Rose Barrett
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Yesterday saw the March 2023 Homeless Report released and made for yet more ‘gloomy’ statistics regarding the homeless crisis nationally and in Dublin.

Released by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Catherine Kenny, CEO of Dublin Simon Community (below) stated “The number of people staying in emergency accommodation in Dublin was up significantly in March, in a continuation of the trend seen over the past 15 months and representing an 25 per cent increase on March 2022.”

Noting this was prior to the lifting of the eviction ban, she said: “We are seeing increased activity in our homelessness prevention services and experiencing a rise in enquiries from concerned tenants at risk of losing their homes and requiring our expertise and support. Single people account for almost half of the clients we work with in homelessness prevention and are especially vulnerable due to a lack of affordable and suitable accommodation.

Additionally, barriers to accessing the Housing Assistance Payment are being reported on the ground, and some individuals are returning to our emergency services due to the lack of appropriate options for moving on from homelessness.” 

Deputy Eoin ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Housing slated the government – following figures released to him via a parliamentary question which showed the government had a “massive underspend” on affordable and social housing in recent years – over €1.52bn between 2020 and 2022.

Deputy Eoin Ó’Broin, SF Spokesperson on Housing

Even allowing for Covid-19 restrictions on the construction sector, the government underspend, claimed Deputy Ó’Broin continued into 2023, which has contributed to the rising figures in homelessness and those seeking emergency services.

Ms Kenny welcomed the government’s €1bn housing plan announced this week. “Designed to reduce construction costs, develop vacant properties, and expedite the building of new homes, proposals to activate planning permissions and finance the building of affordable rented apartments are encouraging, though the provision of cost-rental housing at a reduction of 25 per cent of the area’s market rate will still be out of reach to many.”  

However, the €1bn released is merely that recouped from the underspend in recent years.

“In general terms, these are promising plans,” commented Ms Kenny. “But we are cognisant that it has proven difficult in recent years to spend available funds due to a lack of infrastructure required for implementation, along with a range of bureaucratic constraints inhibiting progress. We are urging government to stay focused and to deliver real output so that we can finally turn the tide on the housing and homelessness emergency.” 

Regarding the provision of social housing, Ms Kenny noted that while in-depth consultations are underway, there remains almost 60,000 people on the waiting list.

“The data indicates that supply is failing to keep up with demand. We are not seeing increased exits from homelessness into social housing. It is paramount that a greater allocation of social housing is ringfenced for those who are languishing in emergency accommodation. The prolonged wait time for a person to exit emergency accommodation into affordable or social housing is completely unacceptable.

“Spending long periods in emergency accommodation is harmful to mental and physical health; with inadequate facilities to prepare basic meals, wash clothes, shower and rest, a person’s sense of agency over their own lives is severely depleted.”

Dublin figures shocking

Cllr Daithí Doolan (above), Sinn Féin’s Dublin spokesperson on Housing, said: “The March homeless figures are utterly shocking. The total number of people in emergency accommodation in Dublin rose by 187 to 8,775 since February. This includes as increase of 62 children to 2,638. The figures include an increase in both family and single person homelessness.

“March was the last month in which tenants were protected by the ban on no fault evictions. What these figures tell us is that levels of homelessness are going to start rising significantly in Dublin from this month.” Again, Cllr Doolan called on the government to reinstate the ban on no fault evictions.

“Government has not put in place the necessary emergency measures to deal with the expected rise in homelessness from this month. I have been inundated by people in panic over their eviction notice. They simply have nowhere to go. This government has utterly failed each and every one of these traumatised people. Particularly stressfully is seeing children facing the fear of homelessness.” He further accused the government of losing control of Dublin’s housing crisis, and directly contributing to the crisis with growing numbers in Dublin unable to afford sky-high rents.

Ms Kenny concluded: “While the tenant-in-situ and right-to-first-refusal initiatives will help to mitigate homelessness in many instances, at this moment in time we need to scale up affordable and social housing supply, in tandem with providing a considerable expansion of homelessness prevention.   

“We must herald in a new age for society that will involve a significant rise in affordable and social housing, providing relief to the thousands of people whose lives are passing them by as they wait for homes to become available. Progress will be measured by a consistent decrease in homeless figures over time, and success can only be declared when the thousands of beds in emergency accommodation lie empty.

“The housing and homelessness crisis can be solved, but we remain quite some distance away.”  

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