Housing crisis forces up to 500 to live in hotels

Rising rents and welfare caps blamed on increase in numbers seeking support

Charlene Murray from Shankill with her five children: Casey (12), Zara (10), James (8), Kealum (4) and Skye (4). The family have been living in a hotel in Citywest for the past three months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Charlene Murray from Shankill with her five children: Casey (12), Zara (10), James (8), Kealum (4) and Skye (4). The family have been living in a hotel in Citywest for the past three months. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 01:00

Up to 500 homeless children and their parents are estimated to be living in hotels as authorities struggle to deal with what charities say is a growing housing crisis.

Rising rents, combined with caps on rent support and a shortage of affordable accommodation, mean low-income families are increasingly being priced out of the private rented market, according to homeless organisations.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive said local authorities were using hotels as a measure of last resort to avert the prospect of families sleeping rough.

“This is absolutely not a sustainable solution but an emergency response needs to be provided to people who are in this difficult situation,” it said, in a statement.

Latest figures show there are about 96,000 household on social housing waiting lists. But the Government estimates only 5,000 new social housing units will be delivered this year.

Most low-income families are reliant on the private rented sector as a result, but rising rents mean it is increasingly difficult to find affordable accommodation.

The problem is most acute in Dublin, where rents rose by about 8 per cent last year. The average cost of renting an apartment in the capital is now about €1,070 a month.

But it is also a problem in other cities around the country and so-called commuter belt counties.

Catherine Murphy, an Independent TD for Kildare North, said she is being contacted by a growing number of families in desperate need of a roof over their heads.

In recent days she became aware of a family who slept in their car as the local authority could not provide them with accommodation.

“We’re at a crisis level. In addition to people who are traditionally homeless, we’re now seeing families in crisis who have no previous experience of homelessness,” Ms Murphy said.

Rent caps
Ms Murphy called on the Government to immediately ease rent caps, which limit the amount of rent supplement payable to those on welfare or low incomes.

In addition, she said controls were needed to limit increases in rent, as well as more funding for social housing.

Analysts expect the cost of private rented accommodation will continue rise in Dublin and other areas this year, putting additional pressure on both low- and middle-income groups.

In the absence of new social housing developments, charities such as Dublin Simon have called on the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) to fast-track plans to make houses available for social purposes.

Latest figures show that 2½ years after these plans were announced just 500 out of the 4,000-plus homes identified by Nama as being potentially suitable are being used for social housing.

Officials say a number of obstacles have slowed down progress. For example, local authorities say only half of the 4,000 homes are suitable or are in areas where there is a demand for social housing. Others have required extensive completion works.

Government officials project that progress will pick up this year and in the region of 1,000 homes will be available for social purpose by the end of his year.

Jan O’Sullivan, Minister of State with responsibility for housing, recently announced a €100 million fund that will result in more than 600 homes over the next two years.

Overall, the number of homeless people in emergency shelters or temporary beds on a nightly basis has climbed to more than 1,600 in Dublin.

The numbers sleeping rough have increased by 50 per cent since April last year, the latest figures show.