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19 May 2022

Durkan fears Derry has become ‘destination for temporary accommodation tourism’

Durkan fears Derry has become ‘destination for temporary accommodation tourism’

Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan: "Covid money has been thrown at this problem, creating a situation whereby demand for emergency housing has resulted in a lucrative market."

Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, has raised concerns that demand for emergency and temporary accommodation throughout the Covid pandemic has resulted in numbers of vulnerable individuals being placed in the Foyle constituency.

Speaking at Communities Committee briefing on budgetary pressures, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive Grainia Long, agreed the scale of demand for emergency housing which has trebled since 2020, has presented a challenge.

Mr Durkan, who is also the SDLP's Communities Spokesperson, stated that with emergency funding due to end in April, the current situation is unsustainable and that “game of pass the problem cannot continue”.

He said: “Covid-19 Homelessness funding has been a crucial provision over the past two years to support people in housing crisis but I have concerns that it has not been spent strategically.

“Demand for temporary accommodation has trebled since the outset of the pandemic and with this vital emergency funding due to end in April 2022 there are 900 temporary placements now at risk.

“That is extremely worrying when we consider the current financial context – we can only expect to see that demand grow.

“The Housing Executive agree that money spent on securing private accommodation for temporary accommodation is eye-watering. Money which would have been better spent on the prevention of homelessness.

“Covid money has been thrown at this problem, creating a situation whereby demand for emergency housing has resulted in a lucrative market.

“I fully appreciate the efforts made and challenges faced by the Housing Executive to ensure that everyone here has a roof over their head but I’m concerned that places, like Foyle, have become destinations for temporary accommodation tourism.

“People from across the North are being placed in Derry and we know many of those are very vulnerable and sometimes volatile individuals.

“This situation is completely unsustainable, not just financially but it’s unsafe. The game of pass the problem cannot continue.

“On a weekly basis my constituency office is being told that temporary accommodation for desperate families from Derry is not available.

“How then can the Housing Executive justify using the availability that is there, to accommodate people from outside the constituency? Action is needed now to address the temporary accommodation crisis in a strategic and sensible manner.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said that the reduction in available hostel capacity, that was brought in to accommodate social distancing when the pandemic struck, led to them making vacant properties available in order to mitigate this.

The spokesperson said: “Our staff provide person-centred services, tailored to the needs of individuals, supporting them to end or prevent homelessness.

“Access to temporary accommodation is a statutory right for those accepted by us as homeless.

“We always seek to make placements within an immediate area, depending on availability and individual circumstances, including requirements for support needs or the size or type of accommodation required, however, this is not always possible.

“As result of the pandemic there has been a significant increase in demand for temporary accommodation.

“This was caused by the reduction in available hostel capacity, to accommodate social distancing and self-isolation, as well reduced alternatives for those who would normally choose to stay with friends and family, due to household ‘bubbles’.

“We mitigated this by bringing vacant properties back into stock, providing additional single let accommodation and also block booking non-standard accommodation to help those in need.

“To support those experiencing or threatened with homelessness we allocated £15m to provide a range services this year, with a further £10m to support our continued response to the pandemic, including the delivery of our COVID-19 Reset Plan.

“Further funding is also allocated via the Supporting People programme, which helps provide over 1,800 units of supported accommodation and over 3,000 units of floating support to a range of customers.

“These measures form part of our continuing response to the pandemic and further details can be found in The Way Home – Homelessness response to COVID-19, published on our website.

“Additionally, we recently consulted on a draft Homelessness Strategy 2022-27 and a revised strategy is due to be published next month.

“We also consulted on a draft Strategic Action Plan for Temporary Accommodation and the delivery of this Action Plan will require significant funding. 

“We work with the Department for Communities to produce annual Homeless funding projections, reflecting many factors which impact on homelessness here and the demand for services.

“With partners, we can also engage broader services, like floating support, to prevent homelessness.”

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