Recent homeless figures reach almost 10,000

The most recent homeless figures released by the Department of Housing are the highest to date. There are now 9,987 people registered as homeless. There are many more who are involuntarily sharing, living in substandard accommodation and sofa surfing, not counted in the official figures. There has been a significant and expected increase in the numbers presenting as homeless from December 2018 to January 2019.

A significant policy shift needs to be implemented to halt the unprecedented homeless crisis. We need greater CPO powers to acquire existing properties that are vacant for long periods of time. We also need public land to be used for public housing. This will reduce demand for HAP and our over-reliance on the private-rented market, freeing up properties in this sector. We also need to implement a rental system that is aligned to the rates of inflation or other similar indexes.

Una Burns, Head of Policy and Communications with Novas stated that ‘the latest homeless figures are disappointing’ and urged people ‘not to lose sight of the personal trauma experienced by the individuals experiencing homelessness, particularly the 1000’s of children living in B&B’s & family hubs. Last year Novas worked with 401 families in Limerick, west Cork, Tipperary and Dublin, who were homeless or at risk. This was the greatest number of families that we had ever worked with and highlights the ever-growing number of households vulnerable to homelessness.’

Furthermore she stated that ‘Rebuilding Ireland, in its current state, in not a feasible document. Figures need to be revised, in terms of the amount of housing needed and the targets for new social housing builds. The plan over-relies on HAP payments and this simply isn’t working. Indeed, The Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government, when examining the potential impact of Brexit on Ireland’s Housing Market found that if the targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland remain fixed, they will become separate to the housing needs of the country.’

As the crisis continues, government must take immediate steps to keep people in their current homes. Rent pressure zones must be extended and sufficient oversight of these zones must be implemented. Vacant properties in our urban centres must be brought into use and public land must be prioritised for social housing.