Homelessness figures reach new record high

Focus Ireland has warned that "there is still much work to be done if we are to end this homeless crisis"

Homelessness figures reach new record high

A rough sleeper in the door way of a shoe shop on Grafton Street, 11-01-2017. Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The latest government figures have revealed that the number of homeless people in Ireland has risen above 7,000 for the first time.

Focus Ireland has warned that the newly released government report shows the homelessness crisis is deepening.

However the charity has welcomed the news that the number of homeless families did not rise in December.

The Department of Housing Homeless Report found that 7148 people were homeless nationwide in the week running up to Christmas.

Focus Ireland CEO Ashley Balbirnie said it is “wrong and totally unacceptable” to see over 7,000 people - including over 2,500 children - homeless for the first time on record in Ireland.

He said the charity had helped to move over 230 families out of homelessness in the first ten months of last year but warned that, "there is still much work to be done if we are to end this homeless crisis.”

Roughan MacNamara, the charity's advocacy manager said there is a lot of good work being done to help people but warned the government is "clearly not doing all it can."

Home Repossessions

The charity said rapidly increasing rents and a growing number of buy-to-let homes being either repossessed or sold is continuing to force people into homelessness.

It said that while the Government has taken some positive action by introducing the rent pressure zones to try and ease rent inflation it is unclear if this will be enough. 

The charity said the government had missed an opportunity to prevent many people becoming homeless last year by voting down an amendment Focus Ireland had proposed to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill.

The amendment would have seen banks and other financial institutions prevented from repossessing buy-to-let homes and evicting the tenants who were already in place.

It also would have stopped landlords from evicting tenants in order to sell properties in a vacant state.

Tyrrelstown Amendment

In place of the Focus Ireland plan, the government introduced the so-called “Tyrrelstown amendment” which aims to protect tenants from eviction when ownership of medium-sized and large-scale developments are sold in bulk.

Following much debate, the government amendment will prevent landlords or large-scale funds from evicting more than ten tenancies at once.

However, the amendment can be circumvented if a property owner can prove that the selling price of the house would rise by 20% if there was no tenant in place.

Mr. Balbirnie said the charity had welcomed the Tyrrelstown Amendment but warned that many tenants remain unprotected by the legislation.

“Our staff report that most of the evictions from buy-to-let tenancies are by landlords with 1 or 2 properties,” he said. “As our amendment was voted down this has left many people at risk - and more people becoming homeless.”

“We will continue to challenge the Government on this issue and seek the action required to protect people in their homes.”