‘Removal of points is not the answer’

Caoimhe McKnight.
Caoimhe McKnight.

Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight has called on the Department of Communities to come up with a proposal that will “help rather than harm” homeless people in temporary accommodation.

Colr. McKnight has expressed concerns over the proposed changes to the social housing points allocation scheme, and what it will mean for people who find themselves having to find their own emergency accommodation as well as those allocated such housing.

She said: “The Common Housing Selection Scheme (CHSS) was first announced by the Department of Social Development in 2000 and was supposed to introduce fairness and openness for families in need of accommodation. While it worked for some it did not for too many.

“As the housing crisis deepens across the North, many housing applicants, who are deemed homeless have had to find their own private rented accommodation.

“These applicants were not awarded the extra 20 points for being homeless for six months that were awarded to those placed in temporary accommodation by the Housing Executive and this, in my view, is a bad policy.

“The Department of Communities proposal to address this inconsistency in the existing policy by abolishing additional waiting list points for homeless families living in all temporary accommodation only disadvantages everyone deemed to be homeless.

“Following Sinn Fein’s criticism of this, we were told that the Department of Communities would address the anomaly as part of the review of social housing allocations.

“People in a crisis situation cannot always wait for the Housing Executive to find them accommodation and homeless people should not be punished for finding somewhere to live themselves. But the Department’s proposal will not resolve the problems of some by making all those in temporary accommodation equally disadvantaged.”

Colr. McKnight said the proposals will only serve to disadvantage more people.

“The Department’s proposal is to remove the extra 20 points from all homeless people in temporary accommodation, regardless of whether it is arranged by the Housing Executive or someone else. Rather than addressing disadvantage this would compound the situation for all homeless people living in temporary accommodation,” she said.

“Once a family or individual is accepted as homeless, whether they acquire temporary accommodation by their own efforts or are placed in that accommodation by the Housing Executive, all should be treated equally and fairly while considering individual circumstances.

“This is an issue that is affecting hundreds of families who are in housing stress and homeless in the city. With almost 3,000 families waiting for social homes this is a problem that is not going away but will only increase over the coming months and years.

“I am therefore calling on the Department to rethink this proposal and come back with regulations that will assist, rather than inhibit, housing prospects for homeless people living in temporary accommodation.”