Wednesday 16 October 2019

Homelessness rising as councils are tasked to spy on Airbnb users

Crisis is ‘very challenging’, says Eoghan Murphy
Crisis is ‘very challenging’, says Eoghan Murphy

Homelessness organisations are warning against complacency as they fear another increase in the number of people in emergency accommodation will make people believe the issue cannot be addressed.

It comes as local authorities are to be given dedicated resources to spy on Airbnb users and make sure they are not flouting new planning laws to clamp down on short-term letting.

House-sharing platforms such as Airbnb will be monitored and vetted by local authority staff to ensure second homes in areas of high demand are not being used for short-term stays.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the measure would help relieve pressure in areas with high demand for housing. New figures released yesterday show the homeless figures reached almost 10,400 last month.


Homelessness charities said the failure to deliver social housing means families are being left to cope in unbearable circumstances.

While the number of families seeking support in April decreased by four and there were 27 fewer children being helped by homelessness service providers, overall figures show the problem got worse last month.

An extra 100 adults sought help from housing authorities.

Merchants Quay Ireland, a national homelessness and addiction charity, said the country must "reject the idea that the homeless crisis is a problem that cannot be solved".

Its chief executive Paula Byrne said the latest homeless figures do not include details of the latest rough sleeper count which shows a further 128 people homeless in Dublin.

She said the Government must change its approach to the crisis.

"With each increase in the homeless figures Ireland risks accepting the level of homelessness in this country as normality. We should not forget that this crisis can be solved."

Barnardos yesterday highlighted a need for more social housing, saying people find themselves living in conditions that are unsuitable for children and fuel ill mental health.


"Young people are impacted emotionally by not having their own space to play and explore," Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said.

"The practicalities of doing homework are particularly challenging with no space to write or read quietly. Social development is impacted as after-school activities are limited. Older children, particularly teenagers, have to grapple with that and whether or not they tell their friends and peers about their living circumstances and do not have the opportunity to bring their friends home."

Mr Murphy said the figures were very disappointing.

"Family homelessness continues to be very challenging, particularly in the Dublin area," he said.

"So far this year we have exited more than 320 families out of emergency accommodation into a home, which is some progress, but clearly, we need to do a lot more."

Speaking at the Oireachtas Housing committee yesterday, he outlined how the Government plans to soften the impact of short-term letting on the housing crisis.

Local authorities will be tasked with making sure homes being advertised on platforms such as Airbnb and property websites are not being rented out on a short-term basis in areas worst hit by the homelessness crisis.

A new amendment to Residential Tenancies Act is set to come into effect on July 1. It means homeowners will need planning permission to use a home for short-term letting in a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ).

Last night an Airbnb spokeswoman called for users to be given a "grace period" to become familiar with the law and "allow a reasonable period of time between rules being finalised and enforced".

"Proposals have only very recently been finalised and it is impossible for us to give clarity at this point on how these rules will be implemented," she added.

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