Dublin council under fire over new housing list figures

Thousands may have been dropped from the list for failing to return questionnaires

Thousands of people in need of housing may have been removed from Dublin City Council’s social housing waiting list for failing to return council questionnaires. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thousands of people in need of housing may have been removed from Dublin City Council’s social housing waiting list for failing to return council questionnaires. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Thousands of people in need of housing may have been removed from Dublin City Council’s social housing waiting list for failing to return council questionnaires.

The number of applicants on the council’s housing waiting list has fallen by almost 3,500 in just one year, according to figures to be presented to councillors on Tuesday.

The drop from almost 22,400 in January 2016 to under 19,000 follows years of exponential growth in waiting list numbers, and comes at a time of huge pressure on the city’s housing and homelessness services.

Councillors claim the reduction does not represent an increase in the number of people being housed, but is the result of applicants unfairly losing their places on the waiting list.

In a statement last night, the council said any applicant who contacts the council before March 31st, and proves they still qualify for social housing, will have their applications re-examined and “re-opened, if appropriate”.

In January last year, more than 43,500 adults and children in 22,355 households were waiting to be housed by the council, the highest number on record.

This month the total has dropped to 38,699 people in 18,946 households.

Assessment

There were 16,000 households on the list in 2013 when the council undertook a housing needs assessment, which local authorities are required to conduct every three years.

Last July the council sent a questionnaire to the 23,446 applicants on its waiting list at that time, to assess their eligibility.

People who failed to respond were sent a warning letter, followed by a final letter informing them they had been removed from the list.

Sinn Féin councillor Noeleen Reilly said the process was unfair and “cruel” as applicants who for a variety of reasons did not receive letters, lost the place they had earned by time accrued on the list.

“I think it is very cruel for people who may be on the list for long periods of time to be simply taken off it and have to start from scratch,” she said.

“It really isn’t fair and unfortunately I have dealt with many families who this happened to in the past who would be housed by now had they not been taken off the list.”

Vagaries

She said while some people ignored letters, others would have moved several times, due to the vagaries of the rental market.

She said she was aware of people who had alerted the council to their new address, but did not receive a letter.

“I know of people in receipt of rent allowance, who would have given the council their new address for rent allowance purposes, but still didn’t get the letter.

“Really relying on addresses is very dangerous and different forms of communication, such as emails or phone calls, should also be used.”

Almost 90 per cent of applicants are waiting over a year and more than 46 per cent are waiting over five years, up from 40 per cent last January.

More than 10 per cent have been waiting on the waiting list for more than 10 years, up from just over 8 per cent in January 2016.

More than 10,000 people on the council’s waiting list are seeking a one-bedroom flat.