Local authority housing rules discriminate against minorities – report

Published date04 March 2021
The study, Minority Groups and Housing Services: Barriers to Access , from the Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC), says these minorities are over represented in homelessness figures.

It details policies and practices applied by local authorities without statutory basis resulting in housing applicants being turned away "unlawfully"; Traveller families being left without a right to apply for housing anywhere and non-Irish people being refused emergency accommodation without "legal basis".

In recent months, "in the context of the pandemic", the MLRC has seen people refused emergency accommodation because they could not prove a "local connection" to the area. This has particularly been happening in Dublin.

There is "no legal basis" for this and it has "placed ethnic minority families in very precarious positions and at risk of rough sleeping", says the report.

Ethnic minority households, including Travellers, face "unlawful" exclusion from social housing lists, due to the incorrect application of a 2012 circular from the Department of Housing.

Circular 41/2012, which provides "advice" on assessing the eligibility of non-Irish applicants for social housing, is out of date and doesn't cover all immigrants' situations, says the report.

And crucially, though it is not law, it is relied upon as if it is by local authorities. the MLRC has seen non-Irish housing applicants who don't fit the circular's criteria are turned away by housing officials . "This is contrary to the statutory obligation on local authorities to assess all applications for social housing support," says the report.

'Normally reside'

Housing applicants must apply in the area in which they "normally reside" or have a "local connection" to, according to 2011 housing assessment regulations.

"It is noteworthy that there is no definition of what constitutes normal residence," says the report.

The "normal residency" rule "disproportionately affects Traveller applicants . . . particularly those residing in caravans who may be criminalised under trespass legislation," says the report.

If a council does not exercises its discretion "properly", and refuses to accept a Traveller family resides in its area, the effect is "to potentially make...

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