Charities warn removal of eviction ban could increase homelessness

Drop of 18% in homelessness with 575 fewer families in emergency accommodation

Homeless numbers are continuing to fall but charities have warned gains could be reversed following the removal of a ban on evictions.

On Friday, figures for March released by the Department of Housing showed there were 8,060 individuals accessing emergency accommodation, a decrease of 1,847 (18.6 per cent) on March 2020.

There was also a decrease of 575 families (38.6 per cent) in emergency accommodation on the 1,488 total recorded the previous year, now at the lowest level since 2016.

The data is based on information submitted by nine regional lead authorities responsible for the administration of homeless services at local level.

There were 4,560 single homeless adults and 913 families in emergency accommodation during the month.

The 2,166 dependants in emergency accommodation represented a decrease of 98 on February. Dependants fell by 35 per cent for the year.

In Dublin, separate quarterly data shows family homelessness presentations fell 18 per cent and the number of families entering emergency accommodation fell by 29 per cent. In the first three months, 236 families, with 422 dependants, exited emergency accommodation into homes.

While the data shows a decline across the board, homeless charities are cautious, fearing the trend could reverse itself following a decision by Government to end the pandemic-related ban on evictions

Renewed anxiety

Dublin Simon Community has urged a prioritisation of supports for tenants in crisis "to prevent a runaway train" of future homeless figures.

Warning of a potential calm before the storm, project worker Adrian O’Reilly said the lifting of the eviction ban has renewed anxiety among its clients.

“We are seeing tenants in arrears, some of whom have already been given notice to quit, and on the other side of the coin there are landlords in financial difficulty themselves who are facing repossession from the banks,” he said.

While some protections have extended to July 12th, Mr O’Reilly said they would not cover everyone at risk of homelessness, particularly those already in crisis before the pandemic.

“For a lot of people, the ability to meet the cost of housing has been turned on its head by recent circumstances.”

Focus Ireland too warned that that the underlying problems in the housing market could re-emerge quickly following the lifting of the eviction ban and called for its reinstatement for a further six months.

"While most families are celebrating the new freedoms to meet up, shop or return to work, others will be facing an eviction notice," said chief executive Pat Dennigan.

“The Government’s continued insistence that the eviction ban is still in place may cause a lot of confusion - while a limited number of tenants who are in arrears due to Covid-19 are still protected, tenants with valid leases who are up to date with their rent can now be evicted through no fault of their own if their landlord wants to sell.”

The charity noted that outside the capital there are 393 homeless adults in Cork, 215 in Limerick and 57 in Waterford.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien noted family homelessness is now at its lowest level for five years and the number of dependants in emergency accommodation is at its lowest level since April 2016.

“With the phased easing of public health restrictions now underway, the blanket moratorium on evictions has been replaced by more targeted protections,” he said. “My department is working very closely with local authorities and with tenancy protection services to ensure that all resources are brought to bear in guarding against any potential rise in homelessness we may see.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times