Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (57)

Jan O'Sullivan


57. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of children that have no family home in view of the continuing number of persons that are in homeless services; the changes of policy being considered to prevent homelessness before it becomes a reality for persons and families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44982/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department publishes a monthly report on homelessness. The monthly report is based on data provided by housing authorities on a regional basis and produced through the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS). The report captures details of individuals utilising State-funded emergency accommodation arrangements that are overseen by housing authorities. The most recent report is for September 2019 which showed that there were 1,756 families with 3,873 associated dependants in emergency accommodation in that month.

Supporting families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government. In 2016, the Government published the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness. Rebuilding Ireland is designed to significantly increase the supply of social housing by 50,000 homes in the period to 2021, double the output of overall housing to at least 25,000 homes per annum by 2020, support all tenure types (social, private and rental), and tackle homelessness comprehensively. Over 27,000 households had their housing need met under Rebuilding Ireland in 2018, with the local authority stock of social housing increased by 8,000, including homes built by local authorities and by Approved Housing Bodies. In 2018, 8,000 new social homes were delivered nationally and this year, a further 10,000 new social homes will be delivered.

Budget 2020 has increased funding available to local authorities to provide homeless accommodation and related services to €166m, an increase of €20m on this year’s budget. While the priority is to support families to secure a home, the Government is also committed to ensuring that appropriate emergency accommodation is available until a home can be provided. In this regard, the Government is providing funding to local authorities to develop and operate family hubs. To date, 29 family hubs have been developed nationally, providing almost 680 units of family accommodation.

This funding also supports the delivery of services to prevent families having to enter emergency accommodation and to ensure that those families in emergency accommodation are supported to identify and secure an independent tenancy within the shortest possible time frame. The HAP Placefinder service has been made available to all local authorities to support households experiencing homelessness or at risk if entering into homelessness, to identify and secure a tenancy in the private rented sector. My Department has approved funding for 23 Placefinder officers nationally.

Rebuilding Ireland is delivering significant results in supporting exits from homelessness. In 2018, 5,135 adults exited homelessness into homes, an 8.6% increase on 2017. I expect that the numbers of exits from homelessness will increase again in 2019.

Further work is being done to prevent families from presenting to homeless services. To strengthen further the rights of tenants in the private rented sector, building on initiatives already taken, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 was signed into law in May 2019. Among the key provisions of the Bill are measures to empower the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to investigate and sanction landlords who engage in improper conduct including non-compliance with rent increase restrictions in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs); the creation of criminal offences for landlords connected with non-compliance with rent increase restrictions in RPZs; and increasing notice periods for tenancy terminations by landlords. In addition, there are now Rent Pressure Zones in 42 areas nationally, in which rent increases are limited to 4% p.a., and the operation of which has been strengthened further under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019.