Ending homelessness and providing decent accomodation

EAPN Ireland Election Blog No. 8

By Robin Hanan and Paul Ginnell,  EAPN Ireland

homeless not hopeless

EAPN Ireland’s Briefing on poverty and proposals for 2016-2021 calls for a strategy to end homelessness and ensure housing for all.

The EAPN Ireland papers says that:

  • “The strategy needs to increase the supply of housing to meet demand, so local authorities need to start building and providing social housing in a planned way to meet future needs. Approved Housing Bodies need to be recognised as providing housing and ease of access to finance needs to be available to them.
  • “It must also provide adequate resources to fully implement a Housing First approach to homelessness. People need to move out of emergency accommodation as soon as possible and not become trapped in homelessness longer than is necessary.
  • “Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment must be increased to levels which meet market rents so that people can take up accommodation and avoid falling into homelessness.
  • “There is a need for an independent Traveller Accommodation Agency to oversee the provision of appropriate and quality accommodation, including Traveller specific accommodation that meets the needs of all Traveller families in a reasonable timeframe.”


The related challenges of housing and homelessness have been prominent in public debate particularly over the last year.

The specific challenges of addressing the accommodation crisis for Travellers has had less attention in the election debates, despite the public outcry over the Carrickmines tragedy.

Most parties in the election acknowledge the need for more social housing and homeless services, while some support a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the constitution.


The crisis and the responses from homeless organisations

bridge homelessAt the launch of their campaign to make homelessness an issue I the election, Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said:

“…In the absence of a sufficient social housing supply and as rents continue to increase, more people are ending up at risk of homelessness. Access to affordable housing with support is the only way we can end the current homeless crisis…”

 The Simon Communities points out that:

  • There are currently 5,324 men, women and children in emergency homeless accommodation nationally, 3,615 adults and 813 families with 1,709 children (DECLG, November 2015)
  • During one night in November 2015, there were 152 people without a safe place to sleep in Dublin City. This included 91 people sleeping rough and 61 people sheltering at the Nite Café (DRHE 2015). Unfortunately, Dublin is the only area where an official rough sleeper count takes place, making it difficult to get a countrywide rough sleeping picture. Figures from Cork Simon Community indicate that rough sleeping in Cork City increased seven-fold in three years (2011-2014).
  • Locked Out of the Market III (Simon Communities Study) found that 95% of rental properties are beyond the reach for those in receipt of state housing support. Of all the properties available to rent in the eleven regions studied, only one was available for a single person (Jan 2016) see http://www.simon.ie/Publications/Research.aspx

To address this, the Simon Communities propose four priorities: for the next Government;

  1. Comprehensive prevention and early intervention measures.
  2. Rapid rehousing using a Housing First approach.
  3. Access and priority for people who are homeless to affordable housing.
  4. Adequate support for people once housed including housing support, clinical support and support towards community reintegration, as necessary

 Focus Ireland poses five challenges to the parties:

  1. If elected will you commit to ending long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough and set a target date for achieving this? There is a record total of over 5,000 people homeless in Ireland. The vast majority are in emergency accommodation such as hostels or hotels with a small number sleeping rough.
  2. Will you commit (or lobby the Government) to build at least 40,000 social houses over the lifetime of the government? A record total of 100,000 households are on social housing waiting lists nationwide. That is one in every 16 households who are in need of social housing.
  3. Will you support holding a referendum on the ‘right to a home’ within the first three years of the next Government?
  4. Do you commit to ending family homelessness – what will you do to make this happen? There are over 1600 children in more than 700 families who are homeless in Ireland. Many are trapped in hotels or bed and breakfasts in one room with their children. Families are becoming homeless mostly for economic reasons. Many more households are also struggling to pay their rent or mortgage each month.
  5. Will you commit to ending the youth homelessness trap? Over 500 young people are trapped in emergency homeless accommodation, with a social welfare rate too low to provide them with a proper home and unable to get a job or training because they are homeless.

The Peter McVerry Trust’s proposals for the election covers:

  • Land, procurement and planning : local authorities to review their land banks and building stock to identify resources that could be used to deliver social housing.
  • Housing provision: the 30% – 50% allocation rates for special needs groups in social housing to be maintained until such time as long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough is eliminated.
  • A cabinet minister for housing & homelessness
  • Mainstreaming housing first and rolling it out nationally
  • Right to a home to be written into the constitution by referendum
  • Investment in prevention
  • Protecting and supporting children and young people. Investment and recruitment is required to ensure that every vulnerable child and young adult has, at a minimum, an allocated social worker and after care plan in place.
  • Drug treatment services: a health focused approach to combating drug misuse in Ireland…introduction of medically supervised injecting centres in urban centres across Ireland.. Funding to develop a network of accommodation options for persons exiting treatment and detox services.

Threshold’s election manifesto points out that:

One in five of people now live in the private rented sector. This percentage rises to up to one in three in urban areas. Many families have long-term homes in the rented sector, while the majority of new social housing will be sourced in the private rented sector.”

They call for a national strategy for the private rented sector which is

“…adequately resourced and has clear targets to address issues like long-term rent certainty, increasing affordable supply, improving the quality of rented housing, promoting institutional investment and dealing with the difficulties in the buy-to-let sector.”

Specifically, they propose:

  • An integrated approach, not a reactive and piecemeal one is needed.
  • A strategic approach to address complex issues including financing, regulation, standards, and welfare supports, as well social and affordable rents.
  • Reform to be able to attract long-term stable investment into the rented sector, especially from institutional investors.
  • A clear framework will have a positive effect on the wider housing market and the economy in general.
  • Incorporation of models that work in other countries that provide stability and affordability in the private rented sector.


What the parties sayhomeles simon

Below is a summary of the main proposals from the websites of the political parties (as always, we would be happy to hear of additions or corrections from any party which feels it has not been fully represented)

AAA/People Before Profit

  • Transform NAMA into a vehicle to provide tens of thousands of social and affordable homes, using its massive resources. .
  • Implement rent controls .
  • Write-down mortgages to affordable levels

(Anti Austerity Alliance:

  • making decent, secure and affordable housing available to everyone –  no one should ever be without decent, secure housing for economic reasons and no one should have to spend more than 10-15% of their income on housing.
  • An immediate ban on economic evictions – change the law so landlords cannot sell or refurbish a property without the tenant’s consent. An immediate rent freeze and progressive rent reductions to affordable levels.
  • A massive programme of direct construction of housing by local authorities to satisfy existing housing need and ensure adequate future supply.
  • Compulsory purchase of building land at agricultural prices to eliminate profiteering would further reduce costs;
  • Acquiring suitable buy-to-let and other private rental properties to immediately increase supply of affordable rented accommodation.
  • Writing down mortgages to affordable levels and writing off unsustainable arrears.)

(People before Profit:

  • Declare a national housing emergency
  • Build 50,000 council houses– 10,000 a year over 5 years. This will cost €3 billion in the first year and a total of €7 billion over 5 years, but it will become self-financing by year 6 and into the future. This programme will also provide jobs in the construction sector and add to revenue receipts.
  • Transfer of 20,000 NAMA housing units to local authorities.
  • Introduce immediate Rent Controls. Establish a new Rental Board that oversees rental prices according to transparent criteria. Reduce rents where they do not meet these criteria and limit rent increases to the rate of inflation.
  • Give tenants security of tenure to protect them against homelessness.
  • Legal measures to outlaw discrimination – an end to “Rent Allowance not Accepted”)

Fianna Fail

  • Raise rent supplement and tackle the homelessness emergency,
  • Increase construction activity to deliver 150,000 new homes by 2021 including 45,000 new social housing units,
  • Retain mortgage interest relief to 2020,
  • Create a special savings scheme to help first time buyers save for their deposit.
  • Restore the housing adaptation grant and the mobility aid scheme to their previous levels

Fine Gael

  • Double housing output to 25,000 per year by 2020.
  • Provide over 110,000 social housing units by 2020, through the delivery of 35,000 new units and meeting the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
  • Review, in 2016, the disparate system of differentiated rents nationally to ensure that housing supports, including the HAP, are fair and sustainable, and prioritise those on the lowest incomes.
  • Introduce a new scheme to help people who are insolvent, and in mortgage arrears on their home, to access independent expert financial and legal advice.
  • improve the availability of finance for new home construction, with a €500m joint venture to finance the building of 11,000 new homes through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).
  • Continue to deal with the remaining unfinished housing developments.
  • Work with housing associations to develop a cost rental option for low income families.
  • Promote a better balance of rights and protections for tenants and landlords.
  • Increase the Housing Adaptation grant scheme by a further 20% to €66m by 2021 so as to keep people in their homes.
  • End the need for rough sleeping by providing emergency beds and accommodation options and by supporting the Merchants Quay Night Café
  • Implement a housing-focused strategy to end involuntary long-term homelessness.
  • Provide 500 modular housing units
  • Return unnecessarily vacant social housing units to use (almost 5,000 void units were returned to productive use in the past 2 years)
  • Maintain a high level of support for homeless services,
  • Maintain the rent limits available under the HAP Homeless Pilot to 50% above the rent supplement levels

Green Party

  • .Hold a referendum to enshrine housing as a social right in the Constitution
  • Affordable homes, a strong private rental sector and a social housing system based on a cost rental model as proposed by the National Economic and Social Council .
  • Amalgamate the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency to create the National Housing Authority, tasked with providing 7,500 units of social and affordable housing per annum. Further, this new authority would take the existing expertise developed within NAMA as that agency winds down.
  • Replace property tax with a new tax levied annually at a progressive rate on the site value of lands suitable for building.
  • Restore the Part (V) requirements to 20%.
  • Limit the amount by which a landlord can raise rent in any year to 7%.
  • Amend equality legislation to prevent tenants being rejected solely on the basis of receiving rent supplement
  • Create an online portal to facilitate the transfer of social housing between tenants – ultimately handled by the local housing department.
  • Audit local authorities’ delivery and implementation of Traveller accommodation plans.

Labour Party

  • Continue to work to ensure the successful delivery of the Social Housing Strategy involving delivering 110,000 social housing units by 2020 at a cost of €4bn, and to enhance social housing delivery as resources and new supply channels become available.
  • Regulation of the Approved Housing Bodies sector as a means to build capacity and further augment its ability to deliver housing.
  • Provide €300m to develop an affordable rental housing sector. Invest €100m to support construction by local authorities and others of affordable housing projects with a further €200m to support rents in 44,000 affordable housing units.
  • Build balanced, mixed tenure communities comprising different types of housing.
  • End rough sleeping and implement a housing-led approach to homelessness.
  • Provide houses as quickly as possible, including fastbuild homes, to take families out of emergency accommodation .
  • building mixed communities
  • local authorities will be supported to frontload the Part V contribution to part finance housing projects.
  • establish a nationally integrated asset management system in conjunction with the local authorities in order to ensure more efficient management of social housing stock.
  • As NAMA winds down its current operations, the agency take up a new remit as the Land Development Agency to ensure long-term housing demand is matched by available land.
  • Extend the “Empty Nester” scheme that is available in parts of Dublin city and county.
  • Establish a ‘Save to Buy’ scheme for aspiring home owners costing a maximum of €6,000 of saving over five years.
  • Further reform the law to ensure a stable, sustainable rental market for both tenants and landlords.
  • Give responsibility to the Housing Agency to address key concerns around housing for Travellers


  • Ten billion Euro investment in community housing.
  • Match existing public lands with private pension and investment funds to create mixed-tenure housing developments and improve the supply of accommodation in areas of high demand.
  • To address homelessness Local Authorities will be mandated to put an inter-agency plan in place to ensure a network of supports are made available to enable all those who want to live a full life are provided with avenues to achieve this goal.

Sinn Fein

  • Build at least 70,000 social units and at least 30,000 cost purchase and cost rental housing units by 2030.
  • .Strengthen Part V to ensure the delivery of 36,500 social and affordable houses. .review all property-related tax reliefs that encourage speculation for profit.
  • Re-examine the practice of capping rent subsidies .introduce rent regulations, to ensure rents demanded by landlords do not escalate to meet any increase in the rent cap. .create rent certainty by linking rent increases to inflation.
  • Make an additional €30 million available to LAs and homeless agencies to house the homeless in emergency accommodation in year one of government. .frontload funding to Local Authorities with a good track record of drawing down funds and providing Traveller accommodation, with penalties for those who refuse to build needed Traveller accommodation

Social Democrats

  • Legislate for Rent Certainty and secure occupancy.
  • New retro-fitting home energy scheme.
  • Establish a Local Authority Fund to enable more housing estates to be taken into charge.
  • New Department of Housing Communities and Planning with a Minister at full Cabinet level.
  • Establish a key new body, Housing Ireland (replacing the Housing Agency), and give it a central, hands-on coordinating remit in the procurement, planning, design and delivery of new homes and the creation of sustainable communities
  • Immediate increase in Rent Supplement/HAP limits as a short-term measure to prevent homelessness;
  • Reinstatement of the Part V requirement of 20% for social and starter housing
  • Rent Certainty, link rent increases in areas of high rental inflation to the cost of living.
  • Review of current security of tenure provisions to robustly strengthen tenure security




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