North West Simon Community says the publication this week of 3 reports on housing, and homelessness heightens yet again its concern at the ending of the moratorium on no-fault evictions.
Noel Daly, CEO of North West Simon Community says “homelessness in the North West has increased by over 58% year on year and taken together the three reports clearly show the Government is putting the cart before the horse by ending the moratorium on evictions on April 1st.
The Government’s Monthly Homelessness Report records that 146 individuals including 30 child dependents were provided with Local Authority managed emergency accommodation in counties Donegal, Leitrim, and Sligo, during the Week of 20-26 February 2023. The 109 homeless households included 12 families, comprising of 19 adults and 30 children, and 97 single adults. While the total number homeless is only 3 more than the total of 143 individuals homeless in January 2023, there has been a massive increase of 58.7% in the number of individuals in emergency accommodation year on year when compared to the 92 people officially homeless in February 2022.
Noel Daly points out that the Monthly Homeless Reports published by Government relate only to individuals and families provided with emergency accommodation by the local authorities. They do not include households frequently described as the “hidden homeless”. People and families sleeping rough, living in cars and tents, sofa surfing, escaping domestic violence in refuges, sharing with parents, family, and friends, and/or living in houses unfit for habitation.
The Simon Communities of Ireland’s latest Locked Out of the Market also published this week offers little hope to households seeking new rental accommodation. The study found there were an average number of 7 properties available to rent during the 3-day study period in Co. Leitrim, and nine properties available to rent in Sligo Town. There were no properties available to rent within standard or discretionary HAP limits, in either location. On March 22nd, Ocean FM reported that local councillor Thomas Healy had received figures from the Residential Tenancy Board, indicating that 54 households in Sligo, 27 households in Leitrim and 88 households in Donegal are about to have Notices of Termination reactivated on April 1st. The Locked Out of the Market study suggests that the majority of the 169 households in the region whose “no fault” evictions are due to be reactivated when the moratorium ends, seem unlikely to find alternative private rented accommodation very quickly.
The Summary of Social Housing Assessment 2022, records that the number of eligible households whose current tenure was described as living with parents, family/friends increased by 10.6% in the North West in the past year. “We have no way of knowing whether the extended families of those facing eviction on April 1st will be able to accommodate them even in the short term but relying on this response should most certainly not become an aspect of Government policy at any point. I would urge any tenant facing eviction or indeed any landlord who is seeking to sell their property to contact the local authorities or ourselves at the earliest possible point to explore if there are alternatives to implementing the eviction notice.
During the recent Dail Debates, Government consistently argued that it is unlikely there will be a significant increase in the number of people seeking emergency accommodation once the moratorium ends, because people will find other places to stay. The latest Monthly Homelessness report shows the ever-increasing reliance on the hospitality sector to provide temporary emergency accommodation in the North West region. In January 2022, 53% (38 Adults) of people experiencing homelessness were accommodated in service with “onsite professional support”, and 47% were accommodated in the hospitality sector. In February 2023, only 26% (31 Adults) were provided with “onsite support”, while 74% (86 Adults) were accommodated in the hospitality sector. Based on these figures, any suggestion that the local authorities could find emergency accommodation in the region for any significant proportion of these 169 additional households seems very fanciful, so it is indeed very likely that the majority of households who do are unable to source secure accommodation after the moratorium ends will have no choice but to join the ranks of the “hidden homeless”.
Noel Daly says that he would echo the comments of his colleagues in Simon Communities of Ireland “that had the moratorium being continued and the State taken action to step up initiatives to prevent and address homelessness there was the potential to make some real and sustained progress. We all know that the building at scale of more social and affordable homes are the answer to the homelessness crisis”.
North West Simon Community believes that the figures published today show that the moratorium had begun to take effect, and if the government had extended the moratorium and at the same time introduced its actions to manage the crisis in the first instance, we could have ensured the re-housing of those affected by the moratorium was much less traumatic. The new measures could also offer real hope to all people at risk of or experiencing homelessness that the State is working in a concerted manner to find a speedy resolution to the challenges they currently face. While we hope that the figures today might give government reason to review the decision to lift the moratorium at a minimum it must act at as an impetus for further action. Included in this we would call again for the Enacting of the Simon Bill to protect those identified at immediate risk of homelessness”