Threshold, the national housing organisation, is shocked that people on housing waiting lists have been ignored in the budget. While there is some good news for first time buyers and people living in private rented accommodation, people who cannot afford their own accommodation have been left out in the cold.
Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said:
“Threshold condemns the attempt by Minister for the Environment, Mr. Dick Roche, to use the excuse of a lack of progress by local authorities for not delivering on the Government’s commitments to social housing build.
Threshold called for an additional 10,000 social housing units to be provided in 2005, yet the increase in the social housing budget of €66 million announced in the estimates will probably deliver only an increase of a mere 250 units over last years’ build. Nothing extra has been added in the budget.
Using the excuse that some local authorities are under-performing is no excuse at all. Ensuring the delivery of social housing by local authorities is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment. The buck stops with Minister Roche and no one else.
Why has the Department of Environment not raised this issue before, if they have known about it for ten years? Threshold would like the Minister to tell the public what efforts his Department has made to ensure that local authorities deliver the authorised housing starts.
The 50,000 households on the housing waiting lists will get cold comfort from this budget. We must not forget that 85% of people on the housing waiting lists have incomes of under 15,000 euros. We cannot talk about a budget that addresses poverty if we do not deal with this issue.”
While social housing provision has not been addressed, measures introduced in the budget to help first time buyers and people living in the private rented sector are welcome. The abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers of second-hand homes of up to €317,500, and reduced rates for homes up €635,000, will help people to get on the property ladder. The increase in rent relief for a single person under 55 to €300 (from €254) and to €600 (from €508) for couples and widowed persons is also a modest step in the right direction.
Minister Seamus Brennan has announced changes in restrictions to the rent supplement scheme, but further clarification is awaited.
Patrick Burke, Director of Threshold, said:
“The reduction in stamp duty for first time buyers of second hand homes is very much welcome. This will make it possible for people to get on the property ladder who might not have done so before. In the past, there was a bias towards buyers of new homes rather than second-hand homes. This meant that many people could not buy homes in their own community and had to commute unnecessarily long distances to get to work.
Increases in tax allowance for people living in the private rented sector are welcome but are relatively small. Higher increases would have created more equity between people living in private rented accommodation and house buyers, who still get the lion’s share of government help. Yet we in Threshold know that almost one in every three people living in the private rented sector spend over a third of their income on rent. These are people who are living on the brink of poverty.”