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Separated men ‘thrown under the bus’ by housing criteria

News

CONCERNS Cllr Christy Hyland.

Councillor claims men are becoming homeless after leaving family home

Anton McNulty

SEPARATED men unable to live in the ‘family home’ are finding themselves homeless as they cannot qualify for social housing and cannot qualify for finance for new accommodation.
Westport Independent councillor Christy Hyland made the comment at last week’s meeting of the Housing SPC, which heard that there are currently 30 households in emergency accommodation in Mayo. Of that figure, 15 are made up of families, while the remaining 15 are single people.Cllr Hyland told the meeting that he has been made aware of a number of cases where the separated person who has left the family home cannot get accommodation because they are still tied into the family home through their mortgage.
“The mortgage still has to be paid, and the children still have to be looked after. The partner who leaves the home sometimes finds themselves homeless. He cannot qualify for housing from the local authority because of the income, and there are awful sad cases where men have ended up on the road, sleeping out and trying to get accommodation but they are limited with the finances they have,” he said.
Mortgage barrier
The maximum nett income limit for a single person in Mayo to qualify for social housing is €25,000 while it is €30,000 for a family. Cllr Hyland said that allowances needed to be made for people in ‘sad cases’, such as a family break-up, to qualify for social housing even if they are over the income threshold.
“It is nobody’s fault in the housing section because of the [income] criteria but it is something which needs to be looked at. There are very sad situations where the father often ends up with nowhere to live and nowhere for the children to go and have time with their father. I am meeting that now in my area and it is very sad.
“No financial institution will entertain him because he is a risk as he is already paying a mortgage even though he is not living there any more.”

No discretion
Housing official, Olivia Gallagher told the meeting that in some circumstances if the person has no alternative accommodation available, they may qualify for temporary housing.
“In those situations, provided they are eligible, we can look at giving them temporary HAP [Housing Assistance Payment], so at least they get a property, and we can reassess them every six months until such time we know the outcome of the family home,” she said.
However, she stressed that the income limit and eligibility criteria is set at national level, and that if an applicant does not qualify there is nothing the housing department can do about it, as there is no discretion in the regulations.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy added that for a lot of people who are separated they still cannot get on the housing list because they are still legally married.
“The majority cannot become eligible until they are divorced and there is a clear break in the marriage. Until you get a divorce legally you are in serious bother,” he commented.
Cllr Hyland concluded the discussion by stating that every case should be taken on its merits and allowances should be made on ‘humanitarian grounds’. To do otherwise he claimed, is to let the department throw separated men ‘under the bus’.