Instances of households, who were previously homeowners, presenting to homeless services following mortgage arrears and repossession of the family home are extremely rare. The Government is committed to supporting households in long-term mortgage arrears to remain in their homes where possible. There are currently two Mortgage to Rent schemes funded by my Department. One of the schemes provides that a local authority can acquire ownership of properties with unsustainable local authority mortgages, thus enabling the household to remain in their home as a social housing tenant. The second scheme provides that an approved housing body can acquire ownership of a property with an unsustainable private mortgage from a lender, while also allowing the household to remain in their home as a social housing tenant. Both schemes are part of the overall suite of social housing options and an important part of the mortgage arrears resolution process. These schemes target only the most acute arrears cases where a mortgage is clearly unsustainable.
Where households do end up residing in emergency accommodation, for whatever reason, there are a range of services available to families during the duration of their stay, as well as supports to assist such households secure new independent tenancies. Long-term housing needs will be met through a range of social housing supports, including the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme and general social housing allocations. Progress is being made in this regard and during 2017, over 4,000 adults that were homeless, or at risk of homelessness, entered into sustainable independent tenancies.
In this regard, I recently notified housing authorities of the availability of exchequer funding to support a new initiative to exit homeless individuals and households from emergency accommodation. It is now open to housing authorities to implement a ‘place-finder’ service, similar to that which has been operating successfully in Cork and Dublin. This service will provide assistance to homeless households to secure a HAP tenancy. Place-finder services will assist such households to seek out properties in the rented sector that are suited to the household’s particular needs and will provide access to deposits and advance rental payments.