Homeless shunning rental properties

Hundreds of homeless families are turning down rented accommodation and are instead going into B&Bs and hotels in the hope of fast-tracking their offer of a local authority home, it has been revealed.

A total of 343 families re-fused to accept Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in the Dublin area last year and instead chose to enter homeless accommodation.

A report has found that only 12 of the 750 families who were in hotels and B&Bs in March exited to HAP tenancies.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) report has revealed that many families who present as homeless are “unwilling to consider” the option of HAP and still refuse to move to supported private sector rental properties even after spending time in emergency accommodation. This is despite the fact that the rental deposit and two months’ rent can be paid up front under HAP.

While it is understandable that many households’ preference is to exit into what is perceived as a ‘local authority home’, this is simply not possible given the current constraints on the supply of social housing,” the report states.

“Consideration needs to be given to how to deal with situations where households are reluctant to consider HAP and instead enter emergency accommodation.”

A separate report by the Homeless Inter-agency Group, also published yesterday, suggested that the Government should review the continued provision of emergency accommodation to those who refuse to consider offers of appropriate housing support.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who brought both reports to Cabinet, said new actions are now “clearly needed” to make sure that “sustainable and successful exits from emergency accommodation” can be found.

“It is my intention to discuss the reports and proposed policy responses to those reports with the local authorities at the forthcoming Housing Summit in July,” he said.

While the Department of Housing is satisfied with the general HAP system which provides around 20,000 housing solutions each year, there are concerns over the perception and attitude towards it.

The DRHE report revealed that, this January, 47% of those who presented as homeless came from the private rented sector and 48% presented due to family circumstances, including overcrowding and relationship breakdown.

There are also “distinct seasonal patterns” in people presenting as homeless, with a consistent decrease in the number of family presentations in December followed by a surge in January after the Christmas period.

Around 60% of families experiencing homelessness are single-parent families.

Mr Murphy said: “I have, again, stressed that local authorities must focus with great urgency and innovation on tackling homelessness.

“Funding is not an issue and the Government will not be found wanting in supporting local authorities in both preventing families and individuals from entering homelessness and working with those who are experiencing homelessness in securing suitable accommodation.”

The minister noted that the rate of increase in families accessing emergency accommodation slowed in 2017. The number of families accessing emergency accommodation across the State rose 55% in 2016 but the rate of increase had slowed to 17% in 2017.

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