Lone parents and children account for more than half of homeless families

Almost half of migrants live in private rental accommodation, ESRI-Ihrec report finds

More than 35 per cent of Asian/Asian Irish, 39 per cent of Travellers and more than 40 per cent of Black/Black Irish live in overcrowded accommodation, the report found. Photograph: iStock

More than 35 per cent of Asian/Asian Irish, 39 per cent of Travellers and more than 40 per cent of Black/Black Irish live in overcrowded accommodation, the report found. Photograph: iStock

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Lone parents and their children account for more than half of all homeless families, according to research which shows they are much more likely to experience poor housing than other household types.

The report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Ihrec) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) also highlights the disadvantages experienced by young people, migrants, people with disabilities, Travellers and others in the Irish housing system.

According to the research, lone parents make up 53 per cent of homeless families, with fewer than 25 per cent owning their homes, compared with 70 per cent of the total population.

They are almost four times more likely to have problems of affordability (19 per cent) compared with the general population (5 per cent). They are also more likely to live in substandard accommodation with problems including damp and lack of central heating (32 per cent compared with 22 per cent of total population).

Ethnic minority groups

The 219-page report Monitoring Adequate Housing in Ireland also shows that ethnic minority groups had a significantly higher risk of overcrowding compared with the general population.

More than 35 per cent of Asian/Asian Irish, 39 per cent of Travellers and more than 40 per cent of Black/Black Irish live in overcrowded accommodation, compared with 6 per cent of the total population.

The research also showed that almost half of migrants (48 per cent) live in private rental accommodation compared with 9 per cent of those born in Ireland; and 29 per cent of people with a disability experience housing quality issues.

The Ihrec/ESRI report also warns that a “real risk” remains that “levels of homelessness will rise following the lifting of pandemic protections and due to the restriction on construction activity which limited housing supply”.

On access to housing, the report points out that homeless figures exclude “those in ‘hidden homeless’ living situations – those staying with friends or family, ‘sofa surfing’ or those who are not interacting with homeless services”.

UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Balakrishnan Rajagopal has said he is “shocked” that single-parent households are “particularly disadvantaged on nearly all housing rights dimensions assessed by this report”.

One in five persons in Ireland lives in a single-parent household and 86 percent of lone parents in Ireland are women.

The rapporteur said it raised the fundamental question of how society is treating this sector who are “the most impoverished and face more significantly more often arrears in paying for their housing costs are among those with lowest security of tenure and highest risk of eviction”.

Pandemic measures

He praised the Government for introducing measures to prevent “a large wave of evictions” during the pandemic, but asked “how can we ensure that we do not see a massive wave of evictions” after the measures are lifted and prevent a crisis becoming a catastrophe.

The study looked at six dimensions of housing adequacy – accessibility, affordability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy which comes up in Traveller accommodation, quality and location.

Prof Helen Russell, one of four authors of the report, said the aim was to establish a monitoring framework to measure how Ireland is doing “in terms of meeting adequate housing requirement because we have signed up to international agreements around social and economic rights”.

“We have a lot of equality strategies but often don’t mention housing in them,” she said.

“There is a migrant integration strategy which is up for renewal but it doesn’t really mention housing even though we see here that migrant families are more likely to be in overcrowded housing and experience housing-quality problems.

“There needs to be a focus around housing in equality strategy.”