Submission to Rebuilding Ireland from Clare Public Participation Network:
August 10th 2017
Clare Public Participation Network wishes to make the following submissions to this review of Rebuilding Ireland:
- Clare PPN wishes in this submission to highlight and draw attention to the fact that a housing crisis exists in rural and regional areas and is not restricted to Ireland’s cities. Whilst the crisis may differ from region to region County Clare is experiencing an extreme shortage of all types of rental accommodation, an increase in homelessness, prevalent over- crowding as well as rural depopulation. There are more than 6000 houses vacant in the county and housing waiting lists stand at approximately 2500 households which when children are figured in means that more than 4,000 people are currently waiting for housing.
- Clare PPN calls for a renewed effort in ensuring accuracy and transparency in reporting of figures: Clare PPN notes the tendency of reports issued from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to minimise the extent of the crisis and to maximise the figures in terms of improvements made. Clare PPN considers it of the utmost importance to proper budgeting and policy making that accurate inclusive figures should be maintained and published. We have noted that the following groups who all experience housing need and homelessness are frequently omitted from official figures:
- People living in the direct provision system who have received leave to remain in Ireland but who are unable to leave direct provision because there is no available affordable or supported accommodation for them.
- Travellers who are currently in overcrowded, roadside, or shared accommodation* due to difficulty in accessing social housing/Traveller specific accommodation and housing in the private rental sector.
- People with disabilities who are currently sharing with families, in residential care or living in nursing homes when their choice is to live independently. In Ireland 600,000 people have some form of disability and in County Clare alone there are 217 people on the housing waiting list in this category.
- On a national level, Clare PPN wishes to add its voice to that of the many other organisations who are calling for an end to the over-reliance on the private rental sector in addressing housing need in Ireland. Clare PPN notes and supports in particular the contribution to the debate made by TASC and the Nevin Institute, both of whom call for a significant change of direction in Irish housing policy and envisage a special purpose company set up by the government to build, purchase and maintain a large stock of state-owned housing which will be available on a cost rental model for long term rental to tenants of all income levels in Ireland. Even in the absence of a shift of direction in policy as described above Clare PPN wishes to stress that there is an urgent need for national and local authorities to invest in directly building or purchasing social housing for the long term secure use of those who cannot access the private rental sector or face barriers doing so. It should also be noted that figures recently released demonstrate that there are over 1200 properties vacant in Ennis where demand for social housing stands at approximately 1100 households. On this basis for sustainable town development it is clear that more emphasis must be placed on all programmes which will bring these properties back into use up to and including compulsory leasing and purchasing. Apart from the poor use of space, dereliction and urban blight which a concentration of empty properties causes in a town, the turnaround for getting such properties renovated and fit for use is in general much faster than bringing new developments from planning to completion.
- Clare PPN regards the following as essential to ensure that housing policy in Ireland in general and the Rebuilding Ireland programme specifically are effective for all groups who make up our diverse communities.
- The need for housing lists to be divided between those with a long term housing need and those with a short term need. People who qualify for housing assistance should be able to select which list they wish to belong to.
- There is an urgent need for a review of the effectiveness or otherwise of the Housing Assistance Payment particularly with regard to people with long term social housing needs. People identified with long term housing need should not be removed from Housing waiting lists even when they are in receipt of HAP. There is also a need for a review in each county and its urban areas as regards the availability of rental accommodation within HAP limits. In Clare, whilst there is housing for sale, there is a shortage of appropriate rental accommodation in almost all areas within the limits of the HAP scheme. This exposes people to greater risks of becoming homeless and of accepting substandard accommodation. Whilst HAP figures can indicate that people have accommodation, they do not provide any guarantee as to the quality or suitability of that accommodation.
- In Clare where Clare PPN is active there is no targeted scheme that addresses the difficulties that members of the Traveller Community face when accessing private rental accommodation even when they are approved for a Housing Assistance Payment. Attention to this issue is urgently needed at a national level, with there being obvious justification and need for an intervention designed through consultation with the Traveller community which obliges, finances and monitors local authorities, approved housing bodies, or private developers to provide appropriate accommodation for Travellers.
- Local Authorities should be held to account as regards their application for and draw down of the funding available for Traveller Accommodation. Local Authorities should jointly conduct an annual Traveller needs and future needs analysis with the Travelling community in each county. The results of this needs analysis should be agreed on by all parties and the Traveller Accommodation Plan should be developed on the basis of it. A realistic budget should be adopted for Traveller accommodation nationally and for each county’s Traveller Accommodation Plan. The Travelling community should be resourced to participate fully in all decisions which concern them and all Local Authority staff who engage with Travellers should be given training on diversity and on the particular challenges that face the Traveller Community. The Trespass Act should be repealed and where members of the Travelling Community who are on the Housing waiting list are dwelling in unofficial sites and the Local Authority has no other suitable accommodation available for them then the Local Authorities should be directed to provide emergency sanitation, waste disposal services and electricity to them for a reasonable fee within the means of the families in question. Local Authorities should be resourced and directed to conduct all of the above.
- Local Authorities should be required to make provision and account for the needs of people becoming homeless through situations of domestic violence. Local Authorities should be asked annually to demonstrate what steps they have taken to ensure that people in such circumstances are catered for.
- National Government needs to make provision for people in Direct Provision who have been granted leave to remain or refugee status but cannot secure accommodation in order to enable them to leave the direct provision centres. It should be noted that many of these people have become impoverished whilst in the asylum application process as a result of the Irish Government’s policies. Clare PPN calls for full social welfare payments to be made available immediately to every person who has been granted leave to remain. As part of its submission to this review of Rebuilding Ireland Clare PPN calls for a complete end to the system of Direct Provision as it fails to meet the housing needs of those in the asylum system. Clare PPN notes that in particular it fails to meet the basic needs of children.
- Clare PPN calls for the continued and increased provision of housing for people with disabilities and the need to include people with disabilities who are currently unable to secure their own independent accommodation in all planning processes and consultations.
Any enquiries regarding this submission may be directed to:
Public Participation Network Coordinator
Unit 1 Westgate Business Park
Phone: 087 1617375