This morning the Department for Communities published the latest edition of the homelessness bulletin for January to June 2022. The statistics make for grim reading.
Here are the headlines:
- During this period 8120 households presented as homeless. This was an increase of 9.6% on the previous six months when 7407 households presented. This figure, however, was lower than the equivalent period in 2021 when the number of presenters stood at 8624 (a fall of 5.84%).
- The three most common reasons for presentation were: accommodation not reasonable (1857 households); loss of private rented accommodation (1507); and marital/relationship breakdown (827).
- The three council areas with the highest number of presenters per 1000 population were: Derry and Strabane (7.1 presenters per 1000); Belfast (6.6); and Mid and East Antrim (4.5). In the previous six months, the equivalent figures were 6.2 for Derry and Strabane, 6.2 for Belfast and 4.5 for Mid and East Antrim.
- One of the most notable trends is the sharp rise in the number of households presenting as homeless due to the loss of private rented accommodation. Between January and June 2022 1,507 households presented for this reason – a rise of 304 on the previous six months and 420 on the equivalent period in 2021. The biggest factor leading to this increase is a rise in the number of landlords selling their properties. 864 households presented for this reason in January to June 2022 compared to 691 the previous year and 312 in the same period in 2020.
- The number of households accepted as homeless increased to 4519 (up from 3753 in the previous six months – an increase of 20.4%). There has been a small increase on the same period in 2021 when 4503 households were accepted.
- In terms of reason for acceptance, “accommodation not reasonable” remains the most cited reason (1452 households) followed by “loss of private rented accommodation” (936) and “sharing breakdown/family dispute” (895).
- The number of households in temporary accommodation continues to rise, with 3658 households in such accommodation in July 2022 compared to 3596 in the six months before (rise of 1.72%). In January 2019, this figure stood at 2065 – a rise of 77.1%.
- 3913 children were in temporary accommodation in July 2022 – a rise from 3763 in February 2022 (up 4%). In January 2019 2433 children were in temporary accommodation (up 60.8% since then.)
The homelessness system is under huge pressure. The homelessness sector is doing all it can to prevent homelessness before it happens and to support those who find themselves experiencing homelessness, but resources are increasingly stretched to the limit (and beyond in some cases).
If this society is to reduce the numbers experiencing homelessness, and see the numbers in temporary accommodation fall, we urgently need political leadership. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) has developed a progressive homelessness strategy in partnership with the sector which it wants to implement.
However, in the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive, or a budget being passed by the Assembly, NIHE is unable to plan beyond the next quarter. It simply cannot implement aspects of the strategy without financial certainty. It has been forced to adopt a reactive posture to homelessness, rather than emphasising prevention.
With political leadership, better outcomes are possible. Without it, it is hard to see how this situation improves.
Full figures available on the Department for Communities website.