Homeless services will swallow more than one in every five euros spent by Dublin City Council next year, following the approval of a €1.34 billion budget for 2024, the largest ever local authority budget.
The cost of providing homeless services in Dublin city is expected to top €301 million for 2024, an increase of €61 million on this year’s costs.
A decade ago the city council’s total annual budget for homelessness was under €60 million, less than the current annual jump in costs in tackling Dublin’s homeless crisis.
The 2024 budget for running Dublin city, approved by councillors on Monday night, has exceeded €1.3 billion, €100 million more than this year, and the highest ever cost to run the city.
Half of the money will go to fund the council’s housing and building division with a budget of just under €637 million, with almost half of that required to cover the costs of homelessness alone.
The budget was agreed after additional money was allocated by central Government on Monday towards the costs of the refurbishment of empty council homes that had been incurred by the council in 2023 but remained unfunded.
It emerged earlier this month the cost of refurbishing “voids” – houses or flats which have been vacated by tenants but are not in a fit condition to be relet, was going to reach some €25 million in the city by the end of this year, while the council’s 2024 budget allocation for returning these empty homes to use was just €10 million for €2024.
Senior engineer with the council’s housing section, Robert Buckle, had told the council’s housing committee that Government funding for repairing and refurbishing empty properties was “constantly coming down” making it increasingly difficult to bring empty homes back into use.
The council’s head of finance, Kathy Quinn, on Monday night told councillors the Department of Housing had agreed to provide €12.2 million in additional funding towards this year’s cost of refurbishing voids. “That will fund the spend in 2023 that has gone beyond our allocation and will meet the costs that we have incurred,” she said.
The council had now reached an arrangement that would allow it to borrow €36 million over the next three years to help fund the voids programme, she said.
While councillors overwhelmingly supported the budget, several said funding for refurbishment remained inadequate.
The “last minute allocation” for voids was “disgusting”, Labour councillor Darragh Moriarty said. “What are we going to do next year and the year after? Go back with the begging bowl again?
“In 2018 the Government used to cover 65 per cent of the costs of Dublin City Council improving its voids, at the same time as construction inflation is soaring the Government has been systematically chipping away at how much it gives local authorities to get empty units back into circulation,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Séamas McGrattan, who chairs the council’s budget consultative group, said while the council was increasing its funding for voids, central Government was cutting its share.
“This is totally unacceptable, particularly during the current housing crisis. This cut must be reversed. Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien must bring funding back to the level required in 2024.”