Social housing umbrella group says NIMBYism among politicians is letting down Traveller community

Councillors accused of praising the work of housing bodies yet opposing efforts to house marginalised groups such as Travellers and the homeless

The Traveller community is being “failed” by approved housing bodies (AHBs) and is being let down by NIMBYism among politicians, the head of a social housing umbrella group has said.

Pat Doyle, who is president of the Irish Council for Social Housing, and also chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said local councillors, while praising the work of housing bodies, oppose efforts to house marginalised groups such as Travellers and the homeless.

Speaking at the publication of the council’s activity report for 2021, Mr Doyle said “great strides” had been made in the provision of cost-rental housing for older people and in the Housing First programme targeted at people who were long-term homeless. “But Traveller accommodation, everyone knows the challenges there but we need to do more. We need to do more because that is an area that we have failed on. As Irish council members we have to make sure we are inclusive.”

He said four approved housing bodies – Cluid, Circle housing, the Peter McVerry Trust and the Traveller-centred housing group Cena – had met officials from the Department of Housing last week. “We are hoping if we can lead on this, show some examples of how we can make [Traveller housing projects] work, I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure we leave nobody behind.”

He said he hoped a number of projects could be showcased as examples to encourage more approved housing bodies to provide Traveller housing. Addressing members, he said: “You’ll get all the support from the Irish council.”

Appealing to TDs to call on their parties’ councillors to support housing for marginalised groups like the homeless and Travellers, he said: “We need a bit more leadership from all our Deputies across the country... We need leadership at a local level.”

Alluding to a NIMBY – or Not In My Back Yard – attitude, he said: “Very often we have the sites. Very often we have funding and the backing from the department but we need that local leadership to step up and say, ‘look, there’s a housing crisis and we need to house people. We need to house Travellers, homeless people, people with disabilities.’

“We get it from every party that they want housing. But at a local level we get: don’t do it here.”

He said approved housing bodies had been better on housing disabled people in the past. While the council could be proud of the 14 per cent increase in output last year (3,792) compared with 2020 (3,312) “we are not seeing increases like that in units for people with disabilities”.

The activity report shows approved housing bodies delivered 41 per cent of the new social and cost-rental homes last year.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times