Homelessness overshadows Housing for All progress

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has stated that it is “confident” its 2023 target of 29,000 new homes will be exceeded.

Although the Government can claim success in increasing the overall supply of new homes, the homeless population recorded at the end of November 2023 set a new State record, with 13,179 people, a figure which includes 3,991 children, accessing emergency accommodation.

The Department, in its Housing for All update for Q3 2023, states that, following on from the introduction of the Cost Rental Tenant in Situ scheme, initially introduced as a temporary measure, that it will bring forward proposals to provide a permanent cost rental option for eligible tenants at risk of homelessness. This is due to happen in Q1 2024.

Reacting to the latest homeless numbers, the Simon Community expressed its “deep concern” that these “alarming levels of homelessness will continue to grow into 2024 if more solutions are not delivered”.

Wayne Stanley, Executive Director of the Simon Community, has suggested widening the use of the Cost Rental Tenant in Situ scheme, a scheme which allows a local authority to purchase a home from a landlord who wishes to sell the property, which he claimed “appears to be delivering for hundreds of families”.

More encouragingly for the Government, increases in the commencements of new dwellings have continued in 2023, with 23,923 homes having been commenced in the first nine months of 2023, an increase of 14 per cent on the same period in 2022.

The number of planning permissions granted increased in the first six months of 2023, with 3 per cent more new homes approved compared to the same period in 2022. 20,382 homes have been granted permission in the first six months of 2023.

The Government will extend the availability of the Local Authority Home Loan to finance the purchase and renovation of derelict and non-habitable properties. Currently, both vacant and derelict properties can potentially qualify for the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant, of up to €50,000 and €70,000 respectively. Currently, only habitable properties meet the property eligibility of the Local Authority Home Loan.

However, given that the overwhelming majority of the more than 166,000 vacant homes in the State are situated in the areas which have the least housing demand and the lowest levels of homelessness, the effectiveness of this measure remains to be seen.

Minister Darragh O’Brien TD expressed his satisfaction with the progress of Housing for All: “All the indicators, completions, commencements, and planning permissions, are showing a positive momentum and strong delivery.”

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