Partnership Promise on Social Housing Welcome, But Must Reduce Waiting Times

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Threshold, the national housing organisation, today welcomed the promise to provide 27,000 social housing units over the period 2007-2009 under the new social partnership deal ‘Towards 2016’. This means that fewer people will experience housing disadvantage, such as living in substandard private rented accommodation, paying excessive rents that they cannot afford, or being forced to live in overcrowded conditions. But with almost 44,000 households currently on waiting lists, Threshold is concerned that the deal does not go far enough. Threshold is calling for an additional target of 18 months as the maximum waiting time that any household should have to wait to be housed.

Total social housing output in the period 2003 -2005 was 19,183 units, so the promise of 27,000 social housing units under the new deal would represent a 40% increase. But given that there are 43,684 families waiting for housing around the country – roughly equivalent to the number of private households in Cork city – social housing output will need to be sustained at record high levels throughout the ten-year lifetime of the deal.

While it is essential to set clear targets for social housing supply, this is only half the challenge. The ultimate objective must be to ensure that all people who need housing get it within a short period of time. Long waits for social housing damage people’s well-being and should be kept to a minimum. Currently single people who have experienced homelessness can wait up to six years to be housed. This is unacceptable. Threshold considers that the waiting time for any household should be no more than 18 months.

Aideen Hayden, Chair of Threshold, said:
“Threshold welcomes the promise of considerably more social housing under the new partnership deal. We are pleased that the social partners have recognised the plight of tens of thousands of people in housing need and have taken a positive step to help them.

But while targets around housing supply are crucial, the ultimate goal must be to end housing hardship. This means reducing the time that people have to wait for housing. Threshold is asking the social partners to recognise that nobody should be on a social housing waiting list for longer than 18 months. The new partnership deal also needs to be flexible enough to adjust targets if additional needs emerge in the decade ahead.”


Notes to Editors:

A 2005 report by the Simon Communities of Ireland, ‘Settlement First’, found that the length of wait for homeless households varies from a ‘minimum of two to three years’ to ‘up to six years to be housed.’
Under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), the Government defines people who have been on rent supplement for a period of 18 months or longer as having a long-term housing need.

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