Traveller housing targets have not been met in 18 years

Authorities failed to achieve goals due to ‘local opposition and prejudice’, report says

Traveller accommodation being built on Shanganagh Road in Co Dublin in 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Traveller accommodation being built on Shanganagh Road in Co Dublin in 2015. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Traveller accommodation targets have not been met at any point since they were made mandatory on local authorities 18 years ago, an unpublished report from the Housing Agency says.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Housing, finds that more than €55 million provided for Traveller housing remains unspent since 2000 and just 6,394 of the 9,390 – or 68 per cent – units of Traveller accommodation promised have been provided.

It finds evidence of “significant deterioration” in the quality of much Traveller accommodation and says anti-Traveller prejudice at local authority level may be hampering progress.

The most significant obstacle to the delivery of Traveller accommodation is the planning process, particularly objections from settled residents and elected representatives.

Under the 1998 Traveller Accommodation Act, local authorities are mandated to draw up five-year Traveller Accommodation Programmes to assess accommodation needs in their area, set targets and deliver them.

Of the first set of targets, covering 2000-2004, 90 per cent were delivered. Some 78 per cent of the 2005-2008 targets were achieved, while during the 2009 to 2013 period 80 per cent of targeted provisions were achieved.

Of the goals committed to under the current accommodation programme (2014-2018), just 39 per cent have so far been delivered, with local authorities 1,856 behind the targeted 3,056 units for delivery by the end of next year.

Some €355.7 million has been spent on Traveller housing across the five programmes to the end of 2016 out of an allocated €410.1 million.

Funding for Traveller accommodation has fallen dramatically, from a high of €170.7 million over the 2005-2008 programme to €33.9 million for the current one.

Significant deterioration

Some 11 per cent of Traveller accommodation units built in the last 12-16 years have been demolished, suggesting “a significant rate of deterioration” in them. The vast majority of local authority respondents (95 per cent) said the standard of accommodation provided was “good”, although 36 per cent agreed “more could be done to improve maintenance and repairs”.

The most common causes identified by local authorities for accommodation falling into disrepair were general wear and tear (89 per cent), accidental damage by residents (76 per cent), intentional damage (67 per cent), criminal or extreme weather damage (49 per cent) and lack of maintenance by local authority (34 per cent).

Local authorities agreed overcrowding was an issue leading to “health and safety concerns”.

“Representatives stated it is hard to provide high-quality Traveller-specific housing at times due to developments being blocked via planning applications and local political pressure.

“Effective implementation of [Traveller Accommodation Programmes] depends on the person with direct oversight within the local authority and whether they are resistant to providing Traveller accommodation. Representatives suggested that perhaps the control should lie within a committee to reduce the impact of prejudice towards Travellers.”

Planning process

They also criticised aspects of the planning process, which could see detailed plans drawn up only for them to be refused by the department.

Traveller representatives said there was “no political will to push” Traveller Accommodation Programmes forward, and argued they were “designed to fail”. They said local authorities did not consult adequately with Travellers and low-quality, isolated accommodation had a negative impact on Travellers’ physical and mental health and on children’s education.

Of the roughly 10,300 Traveller families in Ireland, 1,499 are in overcrowded or unauthorised sites, according to 2016 data from the department, compared with 1,172 in 2014.

The reports states Traveller have larger families and a younger population than the settled community and face such challenges as lower educational attainment and higher unemployment, making them more reliant on social housing support.