Threshold, the national housing organisation, has expressed its disappointment with the budget estimates. Rent supplement restrictions introduced last year were not reversed and that the capital budget for social housing will go nowhere towards meeting need.
Following a recent meeting with Seamus Brennan T.D., Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Threshold had serious hopes that last years cuts in rent supplement might be reversed. But no provision has been made for this in the estimates.
Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said:
“I’m surprised that Minister Cowen said that ‘any serious observer of politics’ could suggest that this Government wasn’t mindful of the needs of people in receipt of social welfare payments. If he is serious in making such a statement why didn’t he announce a reversal of the cuts to rent supplement introduced last year. The experience of Threshold and other voluntary organisations is that these cuts have given rise to hardship and homelessness.”
In addition, a paltry €66 million has been added to the Government capital budget for local authority and social housing programmes. Threshold estimate this will lead to an increase over last year of a mere 250 housing units in 2005, bringing estimated social housing build next year to less than 7,000 units.
Threshold insists that a minimum of 10,000 units must be provided to make any serious inroads into the housing waiting lists. The reality is that 85% of households on housing waiting lists have incomes of under €15,000 a year and are depending on this government to alleviate their situation.
“All the talk in the world about the quality of life in Ireland won’t put a roof over the heads of people in need.
People in low paid employment are spending up to half their income on somewhere to live. It is easy to forget that a lot of people in this country earn the minimum wage of €7 a hour or €259 a week, while the average cost of a bedsit is €121 a week. These are the ‘working poor’. The cost of somewhere to live must be addressed by this government either by the provision of more social housing units or by a Government initiative to provide low cost rental accommodation.
The Government have an opportunity between now and budget day to prove to people in housing need that they value them as full members of our society. We urge the Government to have a serious rethink.”