herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Housing crisis gets worse as 134 new families declare themselves without a home

Homelessness

Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Overcrowding, family fall-outs and evictions have led to a massive increase in the number of Dublin families declaring themselves homeless, with 134 new cases last month.

The figures are an all-time record for newly-declared homeless families and represent an increase of 50 families on the previous high of 84 recorded last August and 80 more than this time last year.

Among the 134 families are 269 children; 125 of the families are homeless for the first time while the rest are homeless for at least the second time.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive said the dramatic increase may be due to a number of families becoming homeless in December but not declaring themselves until January. Officials hope the February figures will be down.

They said notices to quit private rented accommodation, overcrowding in homes and relationship breakdowns among families who initially moved in with relatives contributed to 83pc of the cases.

Unacceptable

The total number of homeless families in Dublin stands at 769, which includes 1,570 children - twice the number of this time last year.

Some 553 families are staying in hotels, with the remaining 216 put up in other forms of emergency accommodation.

Sam McGuinness of the Dublin Simon Community said emergency response measures are not working.

"If we look at January 2015, this is a 114pc increase. Many of these families are accessing hotel rooms with no facilities to cook or clean and often just a bed to share," he said.

"This is totally unacceptable. The longer these increases continue, the more detrimental the impact will be on their lives."

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said the rise is due to a "prolonged crisis in the private rental sector".

"One key aspect is lending agencies foreclosing on buy-to-let landlords and then evicting the tenants," he said.

"The repossession of buy-to-let landlords, often by banks owned by the Irish people, is a growing phenomenon and may account for up to half the recent cases of family homelessness.

"Rents have shot up by 30 or 40pc, and last month a report found 95pc of all properties for rent were too expensive for rent supplement limits."

The Government published a homelessness policy statement in February 2013 with the aim of eliminating long-term homelessness this year.

However, the number of newly-homeless families has increased dramatically since the statement, from 20 in February 2013 to the current figure, which is nearly seven times higher.

Dublin Central election candidate Christy Burke said homelessness will not be eradicated this year.

Mr Burke said the only time the word "homelessness" is mentioned "is when a man dies on the streets near Leinster House or when there's an election".

"The promise that minister Alan Kelly made on homelessness has died a death - it hasn't been mentioned since," said Mr Burke.

Promise

"The Government will promise you the deer in the park, but you have to go catch them yourself.

"The Taoiseach, Alan Kelly and Joan Burton should go and visit every hotel and B&B in Dublin. I'll take them myself.

"Ask them to look at children who have to go from a B&B in Bray to a school in Donagh- mede every morning. There's the pain and suffering, that's what broken promises do."

Dublin's local authorities have said the first phase of modular housing is near completion, but no date has been set for when families will be able to move into them.

The 22 houses, in Poppintree, will be allocated to families living in hotels.

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