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Charity Responds to Homelessness Monitor NI 2020

06 February 2020

Responding to this year’s Homelessness Monitor, Simon Community’s Chief Executive Jim Dennison, commented:

Whilst the findings from the Homelessness Monitor are shocking, for those working within the sector they are not surprising and tell a story that Simon Community have been referencing for some time.

With a 26% increase over the past decade of those deemed legally homeless via Full Duty Applicant acceptances, four times the rate of lettings to homeless households when compared to England and nearly 75% of the private rental market above the Local Housing Allowance rates, we have a scenario whereby there is a greater number of those receiving Housing Benefit who are excluded from homes because of lack of availability or affordability. Furthermore, many of those private rental homes that do fall below the LHA rate are considered unfit for sustainable accommodation.

Considering the facts and figures of homelessness over the past decade, the sector’s concerns around the implementation of the NIHE Homelessness Strategy appear valid. With a trajectory of dismantling temporary accommodation services in favour of providing social and private rental homes, questions remain to the whereabouts of this mystery affordable housing stock. My belief is that homelessness in NI requires a strategic and properly resourced response from Stormont, who after three years of stagnancy, cannot afford to drag their feet on the matter. One need only look at the current ROI election to see all parties use housing and homelessness as campaign lynchpins – something I predict would have been the same during the UK General Election if not for Brexit taking centre stage and a topic that will make or break NI parties in future elections.

I very much welcome the timely decision from the Minister for Communities to introduce legislation to extend the bedroom tax mitigation beyond 31st March 2020 but more work needs done. This new decade requires a serious injection of funding and departmental ownership to fully respond to NI’s main homelessness catalyst i.e. a clear lack of housing options for individuals and families. Social housing repairs and smart legislation for the private rental market can open doors to those locked in overcrowded homes or sleeping on sofas. Equally, decision makers should be keeping an eye on the increase in street homelessness and Full Duty Applicant cases, which must be considered early warning signs to the evolution of homelessness here. As we ‘catch up’ to the UK, we face a future whereby hidden homelessness becomes visible homelessness as more people rely on hostels, B&Bs and shop doorways to bed down for the night.

Click here for more information and to access the Homelessness Monitor.