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'I want the homeless number to come down': Short-term let controls on the way, says minister

Changes to the homeless HAP are also on the way.

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’Brien has said he is very concerned about the record high homeless figures and is introducing a number of measures to tackle the crisis. 

The number of homeless people in Ireland has hit record figures, with over 10,800 people accessing emergency accommodation last month.

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that there were 10,805 people accessing emergency accommodation in the last week of August, surpassing the previous record of July

In July, a total of 10,568 people were accessing emergency accommodation. 

In total, there were 7,585 adults who accessed emergency accommodation in the last week of August. Of those, 4,854 were male and 2,731 were female.

There were also 3,220 children recorded as accessing emergency accommodation.

Speaking to The Journal at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, the minister said it is “a matter of serious concern to me as minister and to Government that we’re continuing to see the growth in homelessness”.

Short-term let controls

O’Brien said he expected such a rise, but added that he is introducing further measures that he believes will make a difference, such as increasing supply, with the incoming short-term let controls.

“Very shortly we’ll have a further announcements in relation to the short-term lets and how we’re going to regulate and manage that better, so we can get more properties that should not be let on a short-term basis, back into the long term rental market.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Tourism on that. It’s been slower than I would like, frankly. But we’re nearly there with it. And it will mean around the platform is being regulated and someone obviously cannot advertise a property without the requisite planning permission and it can’t be advertised on any of those platforms,” said the minister. 

The new controls, when brought in, would result in more homes returning to the long-term rental market in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) where rents are highest and where people have the greatest difficulty finding affordable housing.

RPZs are areas in which landlords are only allowed to increase rents each year in line with the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices.

The new rules, if enacted, will mean that from 1 September, online platforms will not be able to advertise properties in RPZs which do not have the right planning permission.

Right now, those people who wish to let their homes short-term must have the right planning permission to do so. 

O’Brien said that non-compliance with these provisions will be an offence for both the individual property owners and the online platforms.

Homeless HAP changes 

“We need to get supply up and we are getting supply up this year… but also reusing the stock that we have better. I’ve given the council’s finance to bring about 2,500 social homes back into use through the voids program [which refurbishes and opens up social homes that are not in use].

“What I’ve also done in the last number of weeks, is I’ve instructed local authorities to purchase homes, with tenants in situ, where they are HAP and RAS tenants. Actually since I gave that instruction, about 300 homes have come in,” he said, stating that this has potentially prevented these people from entering homelessness.

He said there has been 10 to 12 years of “under supply and under investment in housing”.

“I want to see that number coming down. The only way that is going to happen is by increasing supply and by building more social homes. And that’s what we’re about doing. But any other measures we can take that are reasonable and that are legal we will,” he added. 

Speaking about the recent announcement of HAP changes, where the discretion rate has increased to 35%, the minister said he will be making further changes on Homeless HAP, which is something charities such as the Simon Community have called for as a matter of urgency.

This will “give the the firepower” to local authorities, he said, adding that it will help. 

A lot of people are dependent on HAP tenancies, he said, stating that about 70,000 households on HAP and RAS are being supported to the tune of about €700 million.

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