Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
The latest homelessness figures for the Department show the highest-ever levels of adults, children and pensioners in Department of Housing-funded emergency accommodation. That is only a portion of the total number of people who are in State- or non-State-funded emergency accommodation. All of the homeless service providers in local authorities and in the voluntary sector that the Minister and I talk to are telling us that those numbers are set to increase. Does the Minister have any plans to put in place any new or innovative measures to try and stop the rise and also to reduce the length of time those adults, children and pensioners are spending in emergency accommodation?
The continuing increase in the numbers accessing emergency accommodation is a serious concern for both me and the Government. We are doing everything in our power to tackle this problem, both by increasing housing supply, which will increase substantially this year, and investing in homelessness prevention. Yesterday, we allocated €215 million which is a substantial increase on the previous year in supports for those who are homeless.
I have introduced further measures to increase supply, including the new voids programme - some 2,450 voids will be brought back into use this year, with an emphasis on quick turnaround and reletting - the pilot expansion of the repair and leasing scheme and the reinstatement of the delegated sanction to local authorities for social housing acquisitions. Every local authority is being given the delegated power to purchase homes that come on the market with tenants in situwho are HAP or RAS tenants. I want to be clear that they do not need to come back to me for approval and they need to purchase them. That is a very proactive measure that is there to assist people who have been issued with notices to quit and who are on our housing transfer waiting list. I am encouraging this and have directed local authorities to do that. I will further reinforce that measure on 13 October when I have the housing summit with the chief executives and the directors of services of all local authorities in the country. Since I introduced that measure, we have seen over 300 new homes come in that we have purchased or we have entered into contracts with or are entering into contracts to purchase homes with tenants in situ. We are bringing in that measure while we are increasing the social housing supply. As stated earlier, we will deliver more new build social homes this year than in any other year in the history of the State. The activation and the prevention measure through purchasing and acquiring homes with tenants in situis one that is taking hold now and I want local authorities to do it.
It is highly likely that the homeless numbers will reach 11,000 before winter is out. I urge the Minister to reconsider his opposition to a temporary ban on evictions. Such a ban was recently introduced in Scotland. I ask him to go further in the context of tenants in situ. Some local authorities are not taking his advice. In fact, some local authorities are insisting that people must be on the housing list for six, eight, nine or ten years before being considered for the tenants in situscheme. I urge the Minister to issue a circular to say that where a household is imminently at risk of homelessness that the local authority must purchase the property.
There was nothing at all in the budget in terms of new homeless interventions to stop the immediate rise. Will the Minister do more with regard to tenants in situ and consider the introduction of an emergency ban on the eviction of people into homelessness over the winter?
I am meeting every director of housing in the country and the various chief executives on 13 October. I have reinforced the message about purchase with tenants in situ. The Sinn Féin alternative budget contains no specific provision for any increase in-----