A Report being launched today by Green Party TD and Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, Joe O’Brien, is to recommend a radical transformation of how local authorities assess and prioritise housing applications from non-Irish minorities and members of the Traveller community.
The Minority Groups and Housing Services: Barriers to Access report was compiled by the Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC), an Independent law centre & charity who offer legal advice & representation to homeless people.
The report will also recommend that local authorities apply the “normal residency” rule on a “discretionary” basis because of claims that it disproportionately affects Traveller applicants and “those residing in caravans who may be criminalised under trespass legislation.
A budget of €21.3 million has currently been allocated to the Traveller accommodation programme for 2021.
According to Minister Eamon Ryan, Capital spending on Traveller accommodation has increased year on year from a low in 2014 of €3.2 million to €8.7 million last year
Kitty Holland of the Irish Times, who was given prior access to the report has claimed that the report will criticise the “expectation of a local connection” which, according to Mercy Law, only serves to “constructs a barrier to non-Irish nationals and to ethnic minority Irish nationals, barriers that have led to minority groups being excluded from social housing.”
MLRC will claim that this has led to minority groups being over-represented in the homelessness figures.
However, this is a point that will surely be open to major contention if it fails to take adequate account of what the housing charity Threshold have called the ETHOS method of housing assessment:
“ETHOS is a broad definition of homelessness and housing exclusion and includes households that are roofless, in insecure housing or sofa-surfing. This approach should be used by all local authorities.”
Another recommendation within today’s Report suggests that local authorities immediately reconsider the guidance requirement that asks non-Irish housing applicants to show they do not own any property outside the state.
This, the Report will claim, imposes ‘onerous’ obligations on the applicants that are not applied to Irish social housing applicants.
The report comes a week after Minister O’Brien’s Green Party colleague, Roderick O’Gorman announced that asylum seekers will spend no more than four months in direct provision reception centres before being allocated their own homes in the community.
Today’s Report is also being launched by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The IHREC last week described the government White Paper on housing asylum seekers after four months as merely “a starting point.”