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Murphy says it's 'ultimately fair' those who turn down two 'reasonable' social housing offers be blacklisted for 5 years

Murphy is set to reform the current process, extending the time a person won’t receive an offer from one year to five.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy has said it’s “ultimately fair” that if someone turns down two “reasonable offers” of social housing tenancies within the space of a year they won’t receive any other offers for five years.

Responding to a parliamentary question in the Dáil, the minister said he was satisfied that if someone does refuse two offers, then it should mean they are suspended from the list for five years rather than 12 months under the current system.

Although not in force yet, Murphy said he intended to bring this measure forward as part of a “comprehensive social housing reform” package in the near future.

Refusals

Figures obtained by TheJournal.ie have shown that local authorities have suspended more than 350 applicants for social housing from their waiting lists for refusing more than one offer of a home in the past three years.

Figures obtained from 28 of the 31 local authorities revealed that, in all, 5,459 applicants turned down an offer of social housing since 2016.

Focus Ireland advocacy manager Roughan Mac Namara suggests that problems with a specific neighbourhood, such as drugs or antisocial behaviour, often leads to a reluctance among families to move there and is the most common reason for refusal.

However, he also says there are many cases where people turn down homes that are also unsuitable to their needs, such as properties in locations without bus routes when they have no means of transport, or areas with few facilities such as schools or shops.

“There may be some cases where people are refusing for reasons that don’t really stand up, but in our experience these would be the minority,” he tells TheJournal.ie.

According to the figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 370 housing applicants turned down multiple offers since 2016 – around 7% of the total number of those to have refused.

On what basis?

Minister Murphy was asked by Fianna Fáil’s John Curran on what basis he had made the decision to switch the sanction from one year to five years if they refuse more than one social housing offer.

He said that the current sanction wasn’t working as enough of a deterrent but that the five-year time period would only apply when someone turned down “reasonable offers”. 

The minister defined a reasonable offer as “where dwelling concerned would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the housing needs of the household and, except in an emergency, is located in an area of choice specified by the household”.

Among those who refused accommodation in recent years, documents released to TheJournal.ie show numerous examples where those refusing cited medical reasons. 

Wheelchair users reported being offered houses that had stairs, while another applicant said they were offered housing was too damp for their child, who had asthma.

The Housing Minister said that when reasonable offers are turned down, however, can have a damaging effect on the entire process of allocating social housing.

“The refusal of offers can have a serious impact on the efforts by local authorities to manage their social housing letting process effectively and efficiently, lengthening the period ultimately required to complete lettings or re-lettings and resulting in a loss of essential differential rent revenue for extended periods,” he said. 

The new five-year sanction, Murphy said, would be a “measured step”. 

“It is ultimately fair to all households on local authority social housing waiting lists and will be supportive of the work of local authorities, as they seek to improve the efficient use of their social housing stock,” he said. 

With reporting from Stephen McDermott

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Sean Murray

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