Evidence suggests the State’s goal is to increase homelessness

Evidence suggests the State’s goal is to increase homelessness

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It’s interesting that in the midst of a homelessness crisis, that is exacerbated by successive governments’ abdication of responsibility for the public good and pandering to private finance, there were simple steps that could have been taken to alleviate at least some of the problem.

See Irish Examiner article (also printed below)

Better management of the local authority housing system, using best practice form the best counties. Funding for the cheapest option, which is the upgrade or repair of existing letting property, lessening the need for new builds. Yet none of this was done and was stymied by a seemingly unaware government as they plundered local authority funding for their friends in banking circles.

In fact their incompetence to action the cheapest solution is better explained when you consider that for years there have unfinished estates full of finished houses outside towns all around the country, when the cost of finishing the site works to the finished homes would have been a small but valuable investment.

However the part of all this that makes this author angry is, that while the finished homes remain unused all this time, there are companies are being paid to heat them to prevent damp deterioration, and they have been doing it for years. They heat empty homes while people sleep on the street in winter. Did you ever imagine you would live in a country where this kind of absurdity happens?

In 2015 the government, courts and banks are planning on bringing up to 50,000 possession orders, mostly against families. They are also implementing a strategy to target buy to let properties of part time single property landlords; you know, the kind of investment people were encouraged to make instead of a pension to help the rental market. We hear they want these this year so they can be packages up in tranches and sold off to investors; of course vacant possession is usually part of the sale.

This will see hundreds of thousands made homeless in 2015 and add to the growing sea of refugees trying to rent in a market moving ever beyond their financial range. Yet the government, banks and courts (our homegrown troika) don’t seem to care as they plough on regardless, and the government’s only response (in this article) is to make funding available for a further 1,000 houses to be refurbished in 2015.

You don’t need leaving cert maths to work out we have a problem of epic proportions looming. This is not good enough and the government need to place on record its comprehensive strategy to deal with this impending disaster of its own making.

We need to change from this corporate welfare first, Irish people last strategy that successive governments adhere to. It is not too late to change this, you have the power in your hands.

4,000 local authority houses lie empty

Thousands of local authority houses are empty while the numbers of families on waiting lists and falling into homelessness grows.

On average, 3.2% of local authority homes, more than 4,000, are empty, around 75% of them awaiting repairs before they can be offered to a new tenant.

It takes an average of more than six months to get them repaired and relet with some authorities taking over a year.

Meanwhile, 90,000 families and individuals are on social housing waiting lists. Delays are worst in Cork City Council where last year there was a gap of 47 weeks between a tenant vacating a property and the property being ready to let again, plus another 15.8 weeks before the new tenant was in place. The council said a high refusal rate contributed to delays with some hard-to-let properties having more than one refusal before new tenants were found.

Leitrim and Longford county councils, which had fairly average delays of 28.4 weeks and 21.4 weeks between tenants, also reported high refusal rates. Longford said the rate of refusals in its area was increasing.

However, South Dublin County Council, with the third fastest turnaround time of 11.4 weeks, said giving tenants more input in advance of making offers under its ‘choice-based letting scheme’ had actually reduced allocation times.

Westmeath and Laois county councils had the fastest turnaround times, with 9.9 and 11 weeks.

Roughan McNamara, spokesman for housing charity Focus Ireland, said the number and visibility of vacant and boarded up houses in communities was an added source of frustration for homeless people.

He said every effort needed to be made to speed up repair and reoccupation times. “We are in the midst of a homeless and housing crisis so the idea that it’s taking six months to turn around a house into a home is not acceptable.

“We are not just blaming local authorities,” said Mr McNamara. “If it’s a question of resources, then they need to get resources, but if it’s a question of procedures not being in place to ensure followthrough and fast turn- around, then the procedures need to be looked at.”

Many councils also blamed delays on regulations requiring them to refurbish homes to a “significantly higher” standard than was required for private rented accommodation, and on demands they achieve BER energy efficiency ratings.

The Department of the Environment in the past 12 months created a €30m fund aimed at returning almost 2,000 vacant homes to use. Of the 20 local authorities who responded to queries about their progress in using the fund, most had got between a third and half of the targeted homes repaired and in use.

However, Dublin City Council said: “While we have accelerated the return of voids to use, additional voids arise every week due to deaths, transfers or other reasons.”

The department said funding would be made available to refurbish a further 1,000 homes in 2015.

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