Why are there more than 1,000 homeless children in Dublin?

Rents have spiralled while current rent caps are so low as to be untenable

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly proposed rent regulation in February, but we have yet to see any plan.  Photograph: Dave Meehan

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly proposed rent regulation in February, but we have yet to see any plan. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

The number of homeless children in Dublin has risen by more than 80 per cent since last summer.

The latest figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive show there were 1,034 children with families in emergency accommodation in the capital, in the week of May 18th-24th.

This compares with 567 in June last year, when comparable data started being gathered. The numbers have climbed constantly since – albeit with a slight dip in December when the numbers fell from 741 in November to 726. By January, however, they were climbing again, to 780 and inexorably since.

The vast majority of these children are in low-income families. They are homeless for one reason – their parents could not afford the rent.

Rents in Dublin have been climbing fast. In the 12 months to March, rents increased by 9 per cent for houses and by 11 per cent for apartments. Renting a house in Dublin now costs, on average, €1,325 a month and an apartment €1,205 .

As rents have soared, rent supplement rates have remained unchanged. The maximum rent that a family with two children, in receipt of rent supplement, is permitted to pay in Dublin is €975 a month, or €900 in Fingal.

As the poorest families are squeezed out of Dublin’s housing market, they may move in with family or friends – or, if this option is unavailable, they may present to homeless services where, if they qualify as “homeless”, they will be offered a hotel room.

 

Dislocated families

The Irish Times has spoken to families who have spent up to a year living in one room, and to some of the children. They spoke about having to give away pets, losing toys, having no room of their own, of being late for school as they have been moved far from their own communities – and the fear that friends would know they are homeless. What can be done?

 

Social housing supply needs to be increased dramatically, though any increase will take two years to materialise.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly first mooted rent regulation in February, though we have yet to see any plan. The Government has set its face against increasing rent supplement, but this may have to be revisited. If rents continue to increase, current rent caps will become increasingly untenable. In the meantime, the rental market surges ahead and poorer families lose their homes.