Dublin City Council to stop prioritising homeless families

Families staying for prolonged periods in emergency accommodation to secure homes

Conor Skehan: the change in policy comes in the wake of claims earlier this year by the chairman of the State’s Housing Agency, that families may be “gaming the system”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Conor Skehan: the change in policy comes in the wake of claims earlier this year by the chairman of the State’s Housing Agency, that families may be “gaming the system”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Dublin’s homeless families will no longer be given homes ahead of other candidates on the social housing waiting list, under new proposals from Dublin City Council.

The council said it intended to stop prioritising homeless families for housing to discourage prolonged stays in emergency accommodation and encourage families to take housing in the private rented sector, using the housing assistance payment.

The change in policy comes in the wake of claims earlier this year by Conor Skehan, chairman of the State’s Housing Agency, that families may be “gaming the system” by declaring themselves homeless to jump up the housing waiting list.

We are concerned that families will endure a prolonged period in emergency accommodation and not consider alternatives

In a new report the council said homeless people were securing housing ahead of people who had waited a “far longer time on the housing list”. Last year, in the region of 45 per cent of new tenancies in the city went to homeless people.

‘Patterns of use’

Research into “patterns of use” of emergency accommodation had shown that families staying for long periods were reluctant to accept any accommodation, except a permanent council house, the council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said.

“We are concerned that families will endure a prolonged period in emergency accommodation and not consider alternatives, in order to secure what they believe to be the most sustainable option for their family, ie social housing.”

While this was “completely understandable”, he said, the council did not have adequate housing stock to house these families.

Some applicants who had been on the waiting list for many years were now at risk of disqualification because they no longer met income limits

Families who stayed for more than six months in emergency accommodation were less likely to accept private rented housing using the housing assistance payment, he said.

“While it might seem counterintuitive to cease prioritising families for social housing, it is with a view to encouraging shorter stays and supporting families to rent independently with enhanced financial and social support.”

‘Correct response’

The council had “provided a higher than ever number of homeless households with social housing in 2017, including 130 Rapid Built units built specifically for homeless families,” Mr Kenny said.

“We consider that it was the correct response to the housing situation at that time; however, we need to be equally conscious of the number of families with far longer time on the housing list who are themselves moving between rental properties and facing many of the same issues in relation to security of tenure in the private rental market.”

Some applicants who had been on the waiting list for many years were now at risk of disqualification because they no longer met income limits, Mr Kenny said. Existing council tenants living in overcrowded housing were also waiting excessive lengths of time for transfers to more suitable accommodation, he said.

The council’s housing committee will be asked to approve the new policy on Thursday.