In an effort to prevent long stays in emergency accommodation, Dublin City Council has proposed a new policy in which homeless families will no longer be given priority on the social housing waiting list.
This move comes after the head of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, claimed that some homeless families were 'gaming the system' in order to be at the top of the social housing waiting list.
Dublin City Council now plans on encouraging families to avail of the housing assistance payment (HAP) to pay for accommodation in the private rental sector.
The council's head of housing, Brendan Kenny, told the Irish Times, "We are concerned that families will endure a prolonged period in emergency accommodation and not consider alternatives, in order to secure what they believe to be the most sustainable option for their family, ie social housing."
This is 'completely understandable', he said. However, he noted that the council lacks enough houses to ensure all of these families have a roof over their heads.
Brendan said that families living in emergency housing for over half a year were less likely to accept HAP to pay for private rental accommodation.
"While it might seem counterintuitive to cease prioritising families for social housing, it is with a view to encouraging shorter stays and supporting families to rent independently with enhanced financial and social support," he added.
Fr Peter McVarry, a homeless campaigner, spoke on Newstalk Breakfast about the proposal, saying, "Many homeless families have come from the private rented sector – they've been evicted for a variety of different reasons.
"And now Dublin City Council is telling them 'you've got to go back into the private rented sector if you want to get permanent accommodation'. They don't want to go back into the private rented sector because there's no security of tenure – they don't have any permanence there.
"So that's why they want a council house – and because council housing in such short supply, low-income families are now competing with each other to get the few social houses that become available."
Dublin City Council's housing committee was asked to approve this policy today, according to the Irish Times.