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The Homelessness Monitor: Northern Ireland 2016

27.03.2016 758 XX

The Homelessness Monitor: Northern Ireland 2016 is the second annual report of an independent study, funded by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments in Northern Ireland.

Key findings

  • Statutory homelessness rose significantly in Northern Ireland during the early 2000s and has remained at historically high levels since 2005/06.
  • In 2015/16 some 18,600 households presented as homeless in Northern Ireland. Of these, 60% – some 11,200 – were judged as ‘Full Duty Applicants’. This represents a 13% increase in Full Duty Applicants since 2012/13.
  • In sharp contrast to the position in England, there has been no pronounced recent rise in the number of homeless applications prompted by the loss of rented accommodation. A reason for this is that unlike in Great Britain, direct payment to private landlords was retained after the Local Housing Allowance regime was introduced.
  • Temporary accommodation use has been fairly steady in Northern Ireland in recent years. Between 2,800 and 3,000 placements are made annually.
  • Statutory homelessness acceptance rates are higher in Northern Ireland than in the other UK countries. This is partly because acceptances have fallen elsewhere following the implementation of the ‘Housing Options’ model of homelessness prevention. It is expected that the imminent roll-out of a similar model in Northern Ireland (‘Housing Solutions and Support’) will see statutory homelessness rates move closer to those in Great Britain.
  • The very large proportion (76%) of all Northern Ireland Housing Executive (the main social housing provider) lets to new tenants accounted for by Full Duty Applicants is also partly explained by the above local administrative traditions on rehousing older people via the statutory homelessness route. This is likely to change if policy proposals to reform social housing allocation policies and homelessness discharge protocols are eventually implemented.
  • There has been considerable controversy over rough sleeping, begging and street drinking in Belfast over the past year. Five people died on the streets in a matter of months evoking considerable media attention. But a recent ‘street needs audit’ indicates that visible rough sleeping levels remain low in Belfast city centre, averaging six people per night.
  • There has been a much more extreme ‘boom and bust’ in the housing market in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK. This has resulted in a heavily dislocated market with a much higher rate of negative equity than elsewhere in the country. However, mortgage repossessions still account for only a very small proportion of statutory homelessness cases (1%).

Reference

Fitzpatrick, S., Pawson, H., Bramely, G., Wilcox, S. & Watts, B. (2016) The Homelessness Monitor: Northern Ireland 2016. London: Crisis.