Charity urges Government to strengthen investment in measures to prevent homelessness
National housing charity Threshold took 71,319 calls in 2016 and helped 21,625 people during that time with tenancy issues. The figures are included in its 2016 annual report, which was launched today (27.11.17) by Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English TD.
Almost a third of calls (29 per cent) to the charity were in relation to situations where clients were at risk of losing their homes. Threshold staff also noted an increased complexity in tenancy-related queries, with many of its clients in need of in-depth support and advocacy. Each housing advisor made an average of six contacts with every client in an effort to deal with their cases.
In response to the growing challenges being faced by tenants in the private rented sector, the Tenancy Protection Service (TPS) was rolled out in Galway and extended to Dublin’s commuter counties. The first annual report from the Cork-based Southern region TPS was also presented in 2016.
In the West of Ireland, Threshold’s Galway office saw continued growth in demand for services during 2016. Against a backdrop of falling numbers of rental properties and rising rents, particularly in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare, Threshold provided advice and support to tenants to keep them in their homes.
Figures from the Galway office for 2016 include:
- 24 per cent of cases concerned tenancy terminations.
- 11 per cent of cases related to rent reviews and rent increases.
- 20 per cent of cases related to tenants seeking accommodation, pointing to reducing availability of rental properties.
- 13% of cases related to standards and repairs.
- 44% of clients were families with children.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Threshold chair, Dr Aideen Hayden said: “The unprecedented level of calls received by Threshold in 2016 is indicative of the financial and mental distress experienced by those living in the private rented sector, where there remains an acute shortage of supply. Individuals and families find themselves in dire situations as competition for homes at the bottom end of the rented market has led to greater poverty and the emergence of overcrowding and falling standards. We are particularly concerned with the rise of hidden homelessness where people who have already lost their rented homes are living with family members or friends and where the physical circumstances place pressure on relationships, which bring them one step away from homelessness.”
Speaking at the launch, Western Regional Services Manager, Diarmaid O’Sullivan said: “The Tenancy Protection Service has proven to be highly effective in preventing homelessness and keeping people in their home at a time where the cost of renting and the scarcity of rental accommodation is no longer a viable option for many.”
“The Tenancy Protection Service was rolled out in Galway in June 2016. In its first six months, it supported 317 households, which included 150 families with children in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The main reasons households were identified as being at imminent risk of homelessness were due to rent arrears, being given notice of termination, unaffordable rent increases or threatened illegal eviction.”
Pointing towards continuing challenges in the private rented sector, Threshold has reiterated its call to Government to invest in meaningful measures to address these issues.
Dr Hayden added: “We acknowledge that the Government is introducing measures to tackle this crisis – and I am glad to see that Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) are beginning to have an effect on rent price inflation. However, renting continues to be a precarious venture in this country and there is much more the Government should be doing to protect tenants. We continue to put forward the idea of an ‘NCT’ system for housing, which would see the burden of proof for compliance with minimum standards rest with the landlord, who would be required to provide a certificate of fitness to the local authority.”
Launching the report, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English said: “I appreciate the sterling work and commitment of organisations like Threshold, who have been working at the front line for almost 40 years, protecting vulnerable families in the private rented sector. It is thanks to Threshold’s excellent service that we can work in partnership to ensure that tenants are protected. Addressing our housing shortage and the homelessness crisis is the Government’s number one priority. We have a plan in Rebuilding Ireland, it is working and we will continue to work to fix this situation.”