Budget 2018 was announced on October 10. The minimum wage was increased to €9.50 per hour and unemployment is expected to fall to 5.7% by next year. A tax on sugar sweetened beverages and cigarettes was also introduced, while alcohol prices will remain the same. Changes like these will have a small impact on the lives of students and workers- but what impact will Budget 2018 have on those suffering in the midst of Ireland’s homelessness crisis?
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has been allocated a budget of €1.83 billion. This includes an increase in money allocated to the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme- from €84 million to €115 million. The government’s plan is to build 3,800 new social houses by the end of next year. By 2021, an additional 3,000 social houses will be built. That brings the existing target of social housing homes to 50,000. Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the new social houses will be built by local authorities and approved housing bodies. He stated “I am increasing the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme (a form of social housing support) by 149 million in 2017, enabling an additional 17,000 households to be supported and accommodated in 2018.”
The Housing Assistance Payment is a financial support provided for those who qualify to go on the local authority housing waiting list. Those availing of the support are assisted by local authorities in paying for their rent. The local authority make a monthly payment to the landlord and the tenant also makes a contribution. However, the landlord must agree to this system of payment beforehand. Difficulties have arisen in the past with this system with many landlords rejecting prospective tenants who avail of it. The €149 million increase brings its budget to €301 million. It is expected that this increase in budget will reduce some of the problems associated with the scheme in the past.
The budget for homelessness services has increased by 20 percent with the intention to relieve 3,000 from homelessness in 2018. Only a few years ago, when less than 4,000 people were homeless in Ireland, homelessness would have been almost totally eradicated with this target number. However, homelessness is drastically on the rise in Ireland today. There has been an increase of 25% in the number of people without a permanent home in the past year alone.
According to Focus Ireland, the number of families living in emergency homeless accommodation is at the highest level recorded in years. Currently there are 1,442 families homeless. This equates to approximately 8,270 people homeless across the country. 1 in 3 are children. At present, the number of young people aged between 18 and 24 who are homeless in Ireland is approximately 811. This number has increased by 94% since 2014.
According to the Peter McVerry Trust there are 183,312 vacant dwellings in the State. This is over 22 times the amount of dwellings needed to accommodate those who are homeless. These statistics reveal that Budget 2018 is hardly adequate enough to properly tackle Ireland’s current homelessness crisis. A much stronger plan to eradicate homelessness in Ireland is needed in our next budget.