State paid €39m to house Dublin homeless in hotels in 2016

New data shows total cost of emergency accommodation in the city last year was €50m

Almost €39 million was spent accommodating homeless families in hotels and B&Bs in Dublin last year, more than double the amount spent in 2015, figures from the Dublin Homeless Regional Executive show.

With a monthly average of almost 700 families living in commercial hotels last year, the annual cost of accommodating one family in a hotel is more than €55,000, or almost €153 a room a night.

An average of just under 240 additional families were living in managed emergency accommodation where “keyworkers” or support staff are on site to assist families in moving on to more permanent accommodation.

This accommodation, which is rented from the private sector, cost €9.9 million last year, bringing the total cost of housing families in emergency accommodation to almost €50 million.

In relation to hotel accommodation, the homeless executive, predicting the need for rooms for homeless families, “block-booked” hotels in advance, to a total of €27.5 million.

However, a further €11.4 million was incurred through credit card bookings where the homeless family “self accommodates” by finding a hotel room the homeless executive then pays for by credit card.

‘Inhumane’

Fianna Fáil councillor David Costello said continuing to keep families in hotels was both "inhumane" and wasteful.

“Emergency accommodation was supposed to be a short-term measure.

However, some families are spending in excess of 12 months living in hotels, in one room with no cooking or laundry facilities, and nowhere for children to do their homework or play,” he said.

The “rapid-build” housing designed to take homeless families out of hotels was proving far too slow to build, Mr Costello said.

Since the scheme was announced in 2015 just 22 modular or rapid-build houses have been built by Dublin City Council at Poppintree in Ballymun.

The council has another 130 under construction at five more sites in the city, which are due for completion this summer, but no other local authority has started constructing rapid build homes.

“The modular houses we were originally shown more than a year and a half ago, would have cost €50,000 to €55,000 – the same amount of money it’s costing to keep one family in a hotel for a year,” Mr Costello said.

“Unlike the rapid-build housing we are now building, which is very similar to traditional timber frame housing and is taking almost the same length of time to build, the modular houses arrive fully built and could be used immediately.”

Lifespan

While the housing currently being built for homeless families has a 60-year lifespan and was of a very high standard, a complementary solution such as the modular units which had a 30-year lifespan was needed to get families out of hotels as quickly as possible, he said.

“These units would give families access to emergency accommodation with two to three bedrooms, kitchens, living space and laundry facilities and would allow for independent living and a homely environment in the short term. Continuing to have children living in hotels is inhumane.”

Mr Costello wants the council to establish a committee to find alternatives to hotels for homeless families. Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has promised the use of hotels and B&Bs to accommodate families will end by July 1st.