Commitment to tackle homelessness in draft Programme for Government welcomed by Novas

While scant on detail of implementation in parts, the draft Programme for Government published yesterday is broadly welcomed by Novas. 

A commitment to a Referendum on the Right to Housing is outlined as a key priority and is something that has been long campaigned for by those working in the housing and homeless sector. While not a panacea for the homeless crisis in itself, it does offer a floor of protection for people seeking accommodation and would allow government to introduce measures that are currently prevented by the constitution. The commitment to establish a Housing Commission with a focus on tenure, standards and sustainability is another positive pledge.

A commitment to tackle the number of single homeless people is most welcome. During the Covid-19 pandemic, inroads into reducing family homelessness have been made, but the number of single homeless people accessing temporary accommodation grew. A focus on scaling up Housing First programmes is very important, as too it the provision of appropriate housing to make this happen. The specific commitment to developing more one-bed units is essential to reducing the number of single adults who are homeless and the period of time they are stuck in emergency accommodation.

As a member of the Irish Coalition to End Youth Homelessness, we welcome the pledge to develop a Youth Homeless Strategy. 

There are also promising commitments to local authority tenants such as creating a social housing passport that is relevant in local authorities throughout the country as well as a nationwide choice-based letting approach. There is also a focus on reducing the burden on those renting, with mention of indefinite tenure, a cost rental programme and a deposit holding scheme as utilised in many European countries. The extension of rent freezes and a ban on evictions is essential to maintaining people in their accommodation and reducing the number of households becoming homeless.

The draft Programme for Government has many and varied priorities to ‘reducing and preventing’ homelessness and increasing the stock of housing in the country, however it requires more details. How will housing, both that to rent and buy, be made more affordable? And what is affordable? Targets are important to measure our progress and the biggest target of all should be a commitment to end long-term homelessness in the state.