Housing, Local Government and Heritage | Amount of vacant public buildings available to provide emergency housing
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage if an audit of vacant publicly owned buildings has been carried out or can be carried out with a view to providing emergency housing for local people and immigrants who may have a need for the urgent availability for housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the statutory role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of emergency accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.
My Department does not fund any homeless services directly but provides funding to housing authorities towards these costs. Under the funding arrangements, housing authorities must provide at least 10% of the cost of services from their own resources. Housing authorities may also incur additional expenditure on homeless related services outside of these funding arrangements with my Department.
Under the Exchequer funding arrangements in place between the Department and housing authorities, decisions on the funding, organisation and range of accommodation services to be provided are a matter for the individual housing authorities in consultation with the Statutory Management Group of the relevant regional Joint Homelessness Consultative Forum, and the Department has no function in relation to operational matters. As such the identification of the need for additional resources, including the identification of suitable vacant accommodation for potential use as emergency accommodation, is a matter for the local authorities in the first instance.
Notwithstanding that, as part of the whole of Government humanitarian response to the invasion of Ukraine, my Department, in partnership with the local government sector, is overseeing the emergency refurbishment programme for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection from Ukraine. At the outset of the crisis, local authorities were asked to identify vacant multi-occupancy buildings that may be suitable and available for refurbishment, with buildings across the country now at various stages of refurbishment and others passed to the Department of Children, Equality, Integration, Disability and Youth for occupation.
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