A viable, quality and affordable rental sector can help to prevent homelessness, while also providing decent homes for middle to low income households, according to the national housing charity, Threshold. CEO of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty was speaking today (18.05.17) at the Making the Rental Strategy Work housing conference at Dublin Castle. The one-day event, which is organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing, is examining long term security of tenure, increased predictability, and affordability as the foundations for creating a viable and effective rental sector in Ireland.
Speaking at the conference, Mr McCafferty said: “Families who rent their homes continue to face a risk of homelessness and need a level of protection and stability that is severely lacking at the moment. Existing Government policy places a strong emphasis on the rental sector as an alternative vehicle for addressing long term housing need – to be viable, this needs to be fairer, more affordable, and the quality of such accommodation needs to be of a higher standard.”
Threshold operates the successful Tenancy Protection Service, which helps to prevent homelessness and keep tenants in their homes. In 2016, more than 15 per cent (1,400) of calls to the organisation related to tenancy terminations. The most common reason for terminations given was the sale of the property by the landlord.
Mr McCafferty added: “We are calling for the security of tenure measure that was extended from four to six years in the Rental Strategy to be reviewed to ensure that indefinite tenancies become the norm. Enhanced legal safeguards to security of tenure provisions in relation to sale are needed to ensure tenants can remain in the property until the sale has been finalised. Reforms to the law limiting the use of sale of a property as grounds for terminating a tenancy are also necessary. Similarly, legal reforms are needed to protect tenants when receivers are appointed or lenders seek to repossess a mortgaged property that is rented.”
Mr McCafferty continued: “Access to affordable housing through longer-term rent certainty is a critical element in homelessness prevention through supporting people to stay in their homes. While we recognise the need for greater affordable and social housing construction, this will not happen overnight and we cannot ignore the needs of renters who are priced out of the market in the intervening years. We welcome the introduction of the Rent Pressure Zones as a step in the right direction. However, we are seeing worrying trends of landlords flouting this legislation and we urgently call for stronger monitoring and enforcement of the law in this area.”
Mr McCafferty added: “Today’s discussions highlight the challenges posed in creating a rental sector that is predictable, but predictability for whom? Renters also need predictability, and enhanced security of tenure and rent certainty will go some way towards that. Creating a rental sector fit for purpose demands a balance between the interests of tenants and landlords – but it also requires a balance between short term and long term needs.”
“We recognise the importance in the current climate of maintaining supply and to keeping small-scale landlords, with one or two properties, who house the vast majority of vulnerable clients, in the market. However, Threshold also calls for a longer term strategic vision that creates a more balanced sector, with housing types to meet all accommodation needs and professional, well-regulated and resourced landlords who are interested in long-term income returns and not just turning a quick profit.”
Threshold wishes to acknowledge funding received from the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.