Homeless families refuse tenancies in private sector, report finds

Many stay in emergency accommodation until they can secure a local authority home

 

The Government should consider whether it is appropriate to provide homeless families with emergency accommodation if they have refused Housing Assistance Payments (HAP), an interdepartmental group has said.

Two reports considered by Cabinet on Tuesday have found homeless families are refusing tenancies in the private rented sector, preferring to stay homeless until they get a local authority home.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) report and a document compiled by the Homelessness Inter-Agency Group has found many families are declining HAP tenancies as they do not believe they provide stability or security.

However, the interdepartmental group, consisting of the Department of Housing, Justice, Children and Public Expenditure, says the Government must consider whether this is an acceptable policy.

“Given the need to minimise the number of families in emergency accommodation, it also needs to be considered whether it is appropriate for the State to provide emergency accommodation to households who are unwilling to consider HAP, where HAP may offer an appropriate solution for that household.”

A separate report from the DRHE finds out of 750 families in homeless accommodation in March, just 12 left emergency accommodation to rent homes in the private market.

Reluctance

Families are “nervous” about going back into the private market and do not want to lose their place on the social housing waiting list, it says.

“We are...seeing a reluctance and refusal of households, many of which have young children, to move from the hotels and hubs which they are being accommodated in, into HAP tenancies,” says the report.

“In March of this year, only 12 of the 750 families currently in hotels and B&Bs exited to HAP tenancies. This is extremely low and while it is understandable that many households’ preference is to exit into what is perceived as a ‘local authority home’ this is simply not possible given the current constraints of social housing.”

Throughout last year the executive’s central placement team, to which families present when homeless, met 745 families in emergency accommodation. About 47 per cent had come from the private rented sector, with 48 per cent from either overcrowded or family break-down conditions.

Of the total, less than 10 per cent (73) accepted HAP tenancies, 186 accepted local authorities of housing body homes, while 66 left homelessness for “other reasons”.

HAP was introduced in 2015, to be operated by local authorities, as a more flexible support than rent supplement which was operated by the Department of Social Protection as it allows people to work while receiving it.

‘Housed’

However, families housed with the support of HAP are taken off their council housing list as they are deemed to be “housed”. They can apply to go on the transfer list.

Those who moved out of homelessness into HAP last year waited an average of five months, while those who held out for council or housing body homes waited an average of 14-15 months.

The HAP system is also preventing families who might be happy to live outside Dublin, from leaving homelessness.

As income eligibility thresholds for HAP are higher in the “band 1” area of Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath, many homeless families are not eligible for HAP in the “band 2” or “band 3” regions beyond. The Department of Housing should “review” this blockage between local authorities to homeless families.

There are about 500 people “with a range of medical needs...in long and short-term emergency accommodation”. Many “may never be in a position to live independently”.

“The DRHE would welcome further engagement with the HSE on these people so that the appropriate supports... can be put in place for them”.

About one fifth (21 per cent) of families are from outside the EU, many of who “may not have entitlement to housing support”.