September 19 2019: The housing charity Threshold has called for an urgent increase in funding for homeless prevention services in the Budget in order to stem the constant flow of families and individuals from rental accommodation into homelessness.
In its pre-budget statement published today the charity also wants an increase in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) caps provided to those seeking to secure a home in the private rented sector.
“While the efforts to support the 10,000 plus people currently registered as homeless in Ireland are important, they are only part of the story. Prevention is the solution”, said Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold. “In 2018, through our Tenancy Protection Service we kept 5,161 households in their homes, thus preventing 7,111 adults and 4,451 children from becoming homeless in the first place.”
Homeless prevention activity includes helping tenants challenge invalid notices of termination or rent reviews; taking discrimination cases to the Workplace Relations Commission; reporting poor standards to the Local Authority; and representing tenants at the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
“The average cost of emergency accommodation provision is €100 a night per household”, said John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold. “But Threshold’s prevention services cost an average of €1.20 to keep a similar household in their home. Seen another way the cost of homeless prevention is only 1.2% of the cost of homeless accommodation.
“Of course the benefits of homelessness prevention must not be measured by a simple financial cost/benefit analysis. Homeless prevention is a moral, social and fiscal imperative, benefitting the health, well-being and future prospects of children, parents, couples and single people who remain in their homes.”
According to Threshold, the funding and support for prevention measures is not enough. The first pillar of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland policy is “addressing homelessness”, the key objective of which is to “keep people in their own homes”. Funding and support for services preventing homelessness is now needed more than ever. The Government spent €147m on emergency accommodation on emergency accommodation in 2018, while spending just €9m on prevention.
In relation to HAP payments, the charity said that in many areas rents are far higher than the HAP payment. “This means families either devote almost all of their disposable income to topping up HAP just to pay the rent, or else just can’t pay the rent and enter homelessness”, said Aideen Hayden.
Other proposals put forward by Threshold include:
- The introduction of a Deposit Protection Scheme, whereby renters’ deposits would be protected from unscrupulous activity or illegal retention by landlords
- A major state-funded house building programme
- More homes to be made available on a cost-rental basis with rents set according to ability to pay
- An NCT for housing to improve standards
- Regulations for a minimum energy efficiency standard
- Tax incentivisation of long-term leases
- The outlawing of “no reason” evictions
The full Threshold pre-budget submission is available here: https://www.threshold.ie/assets/files/pdf/threshold_pre_budget_submission_2020_saving_homes_web_version.pdf