By Ann O'Loughlin
Dublin City Council is paying €2,640 monthly for hotel accommodation three nights weekly for a separated homeless father and his three children rather than give him €1,500 housing assistance monthly to rent an apartment, the High Court has been told.
The man claims the Council is operating an unfair, irrational and discriminatory housing scheme in classifying separated fathers as “single” persons when allocating housing. The scheme breaches his rights, including to equal treatment, under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights Act, he claims.
Aged in his twenties, homeless and unemployed, the man has access to and custody of his three young children for three days and three nights weekly.
Because the Council classifies him as a “single” man for housing allocation, he can only get €990 monthly Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
He says he has sourced an apartment for a monthly rent of €1,500 but, rather than recognising him as a separated father and increasing his HAP to meet that rent, the Council pays €660 weekly to fund hotel accommodation for himself and his children for three nights.
On the other four nights, he sources homeless accommodation for himself while the children stay with their mother, also homeless, in hotel accommodation also funded by the Council.
The Council has assessed his ex partner, based on her status as a separated mother, as entitled to up to €1,900 HAP, he says. This unfairly differentiated between him as the children's father and their mother as neither parent has the children on a full-time basis and instead share the custody and access, he alleges.
Unlike other councils in Co Dublin and Fingal, DCC refuses to classify separated fathers as anything other than a "single person" for the purposes of allocating accommodation, he claims.
Feichín McDonagh SC, instructed by solicitor Eileen McCabe, secured leave ex parte (one side only represented) this week from Mr Justice Seamus Noonan for judicial review proceedings of the Council's classification of him as single.
He claims the Council is operating a Housing Allocation Scheme outside its powers under the Housing Act 2009 and inconsistent with the Council’s housing obligations under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights Act.
In court documents, it was stated the man gets Jobseekers Allowance of €193 weekly, plus a €60 weekly access payment.
The children lived for some six years until last year with their mother in private accommodation but had to leave that after the Council's health and safety inspectors condemned it as unfit for habitation, it was stated.
The parents presented with their children to the Council’s homeless unit in early 2017 and were housed together in emergency hotel accommodation. The man and his partner separated in summer 2017 but remain on amicable terms and have agreed access arrangements between themselves, it was stated.
His name was later removed from their joint housing application and, despite telling council officials of the access arrangement, he was asked to sign a document the children resided with their mother on a day-to-day basis, it is claimed.
He then applied for a HAP payment, but was told he could not put the children on his application as they were already on their mother’s application and he was registered as a single man, it is claimed.
That September 2017 decision, it is claimed, fails to take into account the actual living conditions of the man and his children and the court should quash it.