Councils may lose power over housing response

Dublin’s local authorities have been threatened with the loss of powers if they do not immediately tackle the homelessness crisis.

Councils may lose power over housing response

By Elaine Loughlin and Daniel McConnell

Dublin’s local authorities have been threatened with the loss of powers if they do not immediately tackle the homelessness crisis.

The housing minister has written to three of Dublin’s four council’s threatening to remove some of their powers if they do not act.

Eoghan Murphy intends to send more strongly worded letters to other local authorities across the country in the coming days as the numbers of families in emergency accomodation continues to escalate.

Mr Murphy has vowed to deny local authorities some of their powers and will hand responsibility to his department if they do not ramp up the provision of emergency accomodation and social housing.

He said: “Certain local authorities when I have looked at the numbers over the last couple of months of people in emergency accommodation I still haven’t seen the solutions coming through and I am still hearing excuses which are unacceptable, I now have no choice but to tell them to either use their emergency powers and if they won’t I will be stepping in.

Although all 31 councils were given targets in January, Mr Murphy has now been forced to write to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, and Fingal councils over their lack of progress in rolling out emergency hub accommodation.

It is understood he also hit out at councils for “refusing “ to use their discretionary powers to provide financial top-ups to housing assistance payments (HAP) in areas where rents are higher than the State support.

Mr Murphy wrote to the four Dublin authorities on Wednesday with all receiving a wrap over the knuckles apart from Dublin City Council, whose progress on developing homeless hubs and supporting HAP tenants is satifactory.

It is expected that councils in other major urban areas including Cork, Limerick, and Waterford will be contacted early next week, with a source stating: “This is by no means the last of this, every local authority will be receiving letters in the coming weeks.”

The latest figures show almost 10,000 people were living in hotels, B&Bs, and emergency hubs in July.

Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in in Galway, a visibly annoyed Mr Murphy said:

“There are certain local authorities which have not put in place family hubs when they have a large number of families that are self-accommodating. We know that family hubs are the appropriate first response, not hotels.”

Also speaking in Galway, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that the number of people in emergency accommodation, which has increased by almost 1,000 in the past year could not be described as progress.

“It’s evident to everyone that we are still going in the wrong direction when it comes to emergency accommodation and we are in no means in denial about that,” said Mr Varadkar, who added that it would take time to solve the issue.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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