The housing needs assessment figures released by government today (18.12.13) demonstrate the scale of the current crisis in the housing market. That’s according to Threshold, the national housing charity.
Commenting on the figures, Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said the Government must act immediately to provide more social housing units and offer greater protections for those waiting on social housing and living in the private rented sector as they wait.
“The vast majority of people on waiting lists for local authority houses are currently living in private rented accommodation,” he said. “According to today’s figures, 75 per cent of households on waiting lists are living in the private rented sector, with two-thirds of these in receipt of Rent Supplement. In effect, the Government has allowed the private rented sector to replace local authorities as a source of housing for people on low incomes. However, people living in private rented accommodation are not afforded the same level of protection as those in local authority homes.
“Rising rents, more competition from cash-paying tenants, reduced welfare payments and disaffection amongst landlords with how the rent supplement scheme is administered means that the private rented sector is not an adequate safety net for many people who cannot get local authority homes.”
According to Threshold, rents are rising at an alarming rate in the Greater Dublin Area, where there is an acute shortage of rental properties and low-income families are being priced out of the market due to rising demand. Rents for homes in Dublin have increased by an average of 7.5 per cent in the past year and the stock of available properties is falling all the time, the charity said. Rising rents and a shortage of rental housing are also emerging issues in other major urban centres such as Galway and Cork, according to Threshold.
“Increasingly, Threshold’s work is focused on supporting tenants to negotiate repayment plans with landlords arising from rent arrears, and assisting tenants in seeking welfare payments to enable them stay in their rented homes,” said Mr. Jordan. “In November alone, Threshold made over 500 interventions on behalf of people who had complex housing problems, such as rent arrears, threats of eviction, invalid notice from landlords and difficulties finding suitable accommodation.
“There has been a 50 per cent increase in the numbers sleeping rough in Dublin since April of this year. And many people are becoming homeless because they cannot cover day-to-day living expenses, including paying their rent.”
Addressing Current Housing Problems
According to Threshold, to address the current problems in the housing market, the Government must offer greater protections for people living in the private rented sector and increase the supply of social housing, particularly for single people and one-parent families.
“People on low incomes must be afforded greater protections and supports to remain living in their private rented homes,” said Bob Jordan. “Homelessness prevention services – including housing advice and advocacy services – must be prioritised.
“The Government must also act to keep rents in check, and ensure rising rents don’t displace people from their homes. The banks have recently warned that 25,000 mortgage-holders face having their homes repossessed or forcibly sold. If this comes to pass, it will add further pressure to housing waiting lists and to the challenges facing the private rented sector.”
In relation to local authority housing, Threshold said the scale of the problems in the housing market now requires a much bigger response than that currently offered by government.
“The supply of new social housing has come to a virtual standstill, with just 400 additional units built or acquired by local authorities and voluntary housing bodies so far this year,” said Mr. Jordan. “However, we know that – in order to make real inroads into waiting lists – approximately 10,000 new housing units need to be provided on an annual basis. The Budget 2014 announcement of an additional €30 million for social housing is most welcome, but it will make just 500 additional units available. The scale of investment required is much larger.
“In particular, the Government must act to increase the supply of housing for single people and one-parent families. The assessment figures published today demonstrate how those two categories find it particularly difficult to source suitable housing.
“The housing crisis now facing the country requires a much bigger response than that currently proposed by government. It’s disheartening to think that, only five years after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, here we are again, looking at housing issues negatively impacting on our society, our economy and the quality of people’s lives. The Government needs to offer greater protection for those in the private rented sector, and needs to buy and build a substantial number of additional homes for people in need.”