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The Homelessness Monitor: Northern Ireland 2020

The Homelessness Monitor is an in-depth look at the impacts of recent economic and policy developments in Northern Ireland (NI) on homelessness. The annual report funded by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, analyses the impact of economic and policy developments on homelessness.

It provides an account of how homelessness stands in Northern Ireland in 2020, or as close to 2020 as data availability allows. It also highlights emerging trends and forecasts some of the likely future changes, identifying the developments likely to have the most significant impacts.

Growth in the private rented sector

The private rented sector in NI has doubled in size between 2007 and 2017 and is now estimated to house 17% of all households, equivalent to the proportion of households in the social sector.

There is a strong increase in overcrowding in the private rented sector. The number of households (all tenures) affected by overcrowding is estimated at 24,000.

Increasing costs in the private rented sector

Loss of rented accommodation is the third most common reason for presenting as homeless and this category has increased by 70% between 2009/10 and 2018/19.

The increasing cost of private rented accommodation is thought to be a potential trigger for loss of rented accommodation, pricing low income households out of the market and affecting tenants’ ability to maintain their rent payments, particularly in the face of benefit restrictions as a result of welfare reforms.

The growing gap between Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit paid to private rented sector tenants) and contractual rents, is making the private rented sector increasingly unaffordable for low income households. Although LHA rates are supposed to allow private renters who rely on housing benefit to access the cheapest 30% of properties, recent research from Housing Rights has shown that on average only 12% of properties are available at the LHA rate.

Roughsleeping in Northern Ireland

The number of rough sleepers across NI was estimated to be 38 in November 2018 – 16 of these were in Belfast.

The official count of rough sleeping in NI remains relatively low compared to other UK jurisdictions. However, the overall scale of rough sleeping may be substantially higher than this official count, with some estimates as high as 250 people on an average night.

Homeless Presentations to Northern Ireland Housing Executive

18,200 households presented as homeless to the NIHE in 2018/19, of which more than two thirds (12,500) were accepted as ‘Full Duty Applicant’ (FDA) cases.

Whilst homelessness presentations have been static over the past few years, FDA cases have been steadily rising, increasing by 26% since 2009/10.

Single adults of working age accounted for half of all presentations as homeless and family households made up just under a third of presentations.

Supply of Social Housing

Lettings by social landlords have been decreasing in recent years, whilst the number of applicants in housing stress has risen. This suggests that the supply of social housing is one of the main pressure points in the NI housing system.

Just over 3,000 temporary accommodation placements were made in 2017/18. Although the majority of these are private single lets, more than a quarter of the households in temporary accommodation in January 2019 were in non-self-contained forms of accommodation (including bed and breakfasts and hostels).

Report welcomes interdepartmental working

The Homelessness Monitor for Northern Ireland also welcomes Inter-departmental working as an important development in the drive to tackle homelessness in Northern Ireland

It highlights the Department for Communities’ Inter-departmental Homelessness Action Plan which focuses on non-accommodation aspects of homelessness-related interventions. Its priorities are:

  • health and well-being;
  • education and awareness raising;
  • support for care leavers;
  • support for families;
  • employability, financial capability and access to benefits.

 

Tagged In

Research, Private Tenancies, Homelessness