The Housing Executive is to expand its private sector portfolio in Derry after confirming all its emergency accommodation stock is already filled to capacity.
The Executive has told the Journal that the 231 privately-owned properties which it uses to provide homeless people and families with emergency accommodation across the city are now full.
The Housing Executive has now been forced to advertise for more property owners in the private sector to come forward to address the problem.
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive (HE) said that in the year to March 2015, a staggering 2,107 applicants presented as homeless across the new Derry City & Strabane District Council area.
Of these, 1,291 were accepted as statutorily homeless.
A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said that advertising for accommodation in the private rented sector is something that the Executive was doing across the north “to renew and bolster our property portfolio for our Bed Bureau”.
She said that the Bureau is “used to accommodate those people presenting and accepted by the Housing Executive as statutorily homeless”.
The spokesperson added that a range of properties was needed to deal with demand.
“The Housing Executive requires one, two, three and four bedroom properties of a good standard that are decoratively good and meet all the safety regulations required of landlords.
“We are particularly interested in availing of properties across the city.
“We currently avail of 231 properties in the private rented sector in Derry-Londonderry and all are occupied.”
The spokeswoman also confirmed: “In respect of those who are accommodated through the Bed Bureau and apply for Housing Benefit, that payment is made directly to the landlord. There is no contract.”
As of March this year there were a total of 3,425 applicants on the social housing waiting list for Derry.
Of these, 1,227 applicants were registered through the HE’s Collon Terrace office, 1,194 at Waterloo Place and 1,004 in the Waterside.
Over two thirds of those on the waiting list- 2,429 applicants- are deemed as being in housing stress.
Of these, 942 were registered in the Collon Terrace office area, 822 at Waterloo Place, and 665 at Waterside.
Speaking during the recent unveiling of a tapestry developed by local homeless people in Derry at the HE’s Waterloo Place office, area manager Avril McAllister told those gathered:
“Last year in the new council of Derry and Strabane, we had over 2,000 households presented as homeless and 1,200 of them were full duty homeless.
“We placed 535 in temporary accommodation. It’s a problem that is not going away.”
She added: “The complexities of the problems that people have when they come to us are really getting more and more extreme now.”
Dozens of local people who have found themselves homeless came together to develop the tapestry project.Sandra Duffy, a member of the Civic Homelessness Forum, said the tapestry would help to prevent the stigmatisation of people who find themselves without homes.