No evidence those in emergency accommodation are ‘gaming the system’

Eoghan Murphy says it’s important that we have ‘different voices’ in housing debate

The outgoing head of the Government’s Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising “self-declared homelessness”

The outgoing head of the Government’s Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising “self-declared homelessness”

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said there is no evidence in his department of people in emergency accommodation “trying to game the system”.

Mr Murphy was responding to comments by the outgoing head of the Government’s Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, who said families living in hotels and other emergency accommodation may be “gaming the system” by declaring themselves homeless to jump up the housing list.

Mr Skehan said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising “self-declared homelessness” in the allocation of social housing.

“I’ve no evidence in my department of people presenting or trying to game the system,” Mr Murphy told reporters on Wednesday. “What I think Conor Skehan was saying is that it may have been an unintended consequence of previous government policy. Homelessness is a very complex issue. People find themselves in very difficult situations in their lives through no fault of their own.”

Impact

Mr Murphy said Mr Skehan’s role as chairman of the Housing Agency involved advising on Government policy and examining its impact. “I think it’s fair enough that he can do that, that’s his role, and it’s not for me to criticise him for doing that. It’s important that we have different voices in this debate.”

In January 2015, following the death of Jonathan Corrie who had been sleeping rough near Leinster House, the then minister for housing Alan Kelly ordered that 50 per cent of all social housing available in Dublin city and county was to be allocated to homeless people.

Prior to this 10 per cent of housing was allocated to homeless individuals or families in Dublin city, and 4-6 per cent in the rest of Dublin.

At the end of December 2014, 331 families were living in emergency accommodation, mostly in hotels and B&Bs. By the following December there were 683 homeless families. That number has now reached 1,530.

Disadvantaged

In July 2016, the 50 per cent allocation order was dropped amid concerns that general housing waiting list applicants were being disadvantaged. However, Dublin City Council continues to prioritise homeless applicants. Up to October of this year, 43 per cent of new tenancies in the city went to homeless people.

Prioritisation could be distorting homelessness figures, Mr Skehan said. “We unwittingly created a problem by prioritising self-declared homelessness above all other types of housing need, which created a distortion in the waiting list system and may have encouraged people to game the system.”