Dublin councils move to address housing crisis

Plans to change allocations policy will impact on ‘transfer list’ applicants

Housing on the northside of Dublin. The capital’s local authorities plan to allocate 1,306 dwellings to homeless families between now and 2016. Photograph: Frank Miller

Housing on the northside of Dublin. The capital’s local authorities plan to allocate 1,306 dwellings to homeless families between now and 2016. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

Dublin’s four local authorities may seek ministerial direction to change how housing is allocated, as part of efforts to address the homelessness crisis.

They are also seeking €25.5 million from the Department of the Environment to increase housing stock, are planning to ringfence more than 1,300 units of housing for homeless households and are in negotiations with a mainstream bank on a “leasing option” on 200 housing units.

The plans are set out in a report to the Cabinet sub-committee on social policy and have been seen by The Irish Times.

The report, ‘Actions being taken by Dublin City Council as the lead statutory authority for the Dublin region in response to the National Homeless Implementation Plan (NHIP)’, was submitted to the sub-committee on June 26th. It is to consider its contents this week.

The report sets out the measures the local authorities must take to achieve the NHIP’s objective of ending homelessness by 2016.

‘Crisis level of demand’

The measures fall into three categories: preventing homelessness, increasing housing supply and ensuring adequate emergency accommodation.

The report says there is a “crisis level of demand for emergency beds” across the Dublin with 1,396 emergency beds full every night, and 150 families, with 311 children, in hotels.

Some 127 people were found sleeping rough in the most recent count, the highest level for the ‘spring count’ in five years.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which manages homelessness services in the capital, is facing a shortfall of €6 million this year, it says.

The report points out funding for Dublin’s homelessness services was cut by central Government from €35.6 million in 2012 to €31.3 million and the shortfall was bridged “as a once off measure . . . from other sources”. This year Dublin City Council allocated €4.9 million of its income to make up the anticipated shortfall again, but this has proved inadequate.

In a move that will adversely affect council tenants hoping to change dwellings, the report says housing allocation procedures will change. Currently, 50 per cent of allocations are made to existing tenants on the transfer list, with 50 per cent going to new applicants.

“It is intended to seek approval from the [council’s] elected members to change this, from July 2014, to 33.33 per cent to transfer list applicants and 66.66 per cent to housing list applicants. If the elected members do not consent to this change it can only proceed with a ministerial direction.”

Call for funds

The local authorities plan to allocate 1,306 dwellings to homeless families between now and 2016, with 427 to be allocated this year, 349 next year and 334 in 2016.

Though €17 million has been allocated by the department for the construction/ acquisition of 134 units in three local authority areas – Dublin, Fingal and South Dublin, the report says the local authorities need another €22 million for a further 158. They are also seeking a “minimum €3.5 million” to refurbish 211 vacant units, or ‘voids’.