Call for three-month limit on emergency accommodation

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission wants homeless families moved from emergency accommodation into permanent housing within three months.

That was its message to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy while calling on him change the Housing Act 1998 so local authorities have to find permanent accommodation for families.

The commission has raised a number of concerns about emergency accommodation in a policy statement and wants the amount of time a family stays in such a setting to be limited to three months.

It is particularly critical of the broad discretion provided to local authorities within the current system of emergency housing.

It fears the use of family hubs could “normalise” family homelessness, leaving families institutionalised and accustomed to lives lacking autonomy and privacy.

The regulations should specify that the family have access to cooking facilities and utensils, a play area, a family room and the family’s right to autonomy and privacy should be respected.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission chief commissioner Emily Logan met with families affected by homelessness and visited one of the family hub sites.

“The primary policy response must be to ensure that every family has access to suitable, permanent accommodation,” said Ms Logan.

The commission also believes that distressed homeless families should not have to find their own emergency accommodation.

Separately, a report from Maynooth University discovered that over-reliance by current government policy on the private rental sector is contributing to the housing crisis.

It recommends the tripling of spending on social housing to €1bn per year to allow the rapid building within 16 months of 5,000 additional social housing units.

Report co-author Dr Mary P Murphy, a lecturer in Irish politics and society, said the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme were reliant on supply from the private rental sector.

“The most vulnerable families have had their chances of finding accommodation extremely reduced by the prioritising of HAP,” said Dr Murphy.

A cost-benefit analysis included in the report shows that the cost to the State of funding a local authority home over 30 years is €800 a month, compared to the average HAP rent in Dublin, at €1,244.

A typical HAP dwelling in Dublin was almost €275,000 more expensive than state-funded social housing over the course of 30 years.

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