National housing charity Threshold has called on election candidates to commit urgently to measures to reform the private rented sector and help ease the housing crisis.
Threshold’s election manifesto, A Platform for Action on Housing, contains asks for all election candidates with five key aims: improving the viability of the private rented sector; preventing homelessness; increasing the supply of homes; establishing a 20-year housing strategy; and enshrining the right to a home in the Constitution.
Speaking today, CEO of Threshold John-Mark McCafferty said: “Last year, Threshold’s advisors carried out over 80,000 actions on behalf of vulnerable households to support them and prevent homelessness. The measures we are asking candidates to support in the 2020 General Election are based on the lived experience of the clients we support every day.”
Improving the viability of the private rented sector
“Many positive changes have been made towards transforming the private rented sector into a viable tenure of choice,” says McCafferty, “but there are still some areas that require improvement. They require political will. The position taken on these issues by those who are elected to the new Dáil will have a major impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of tenants, and on those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.”
The changes Threshold is seeking are:
- The introduction of indefinite tenancies;
- The incentivisation and promotion of long-term lease agreements;
- The introduction of a property-specific rent register;
- A review of Rent Pressure Zone measures to establish whether further rent certainty measures are necessary;
- The establishment of a custodial Deposit Protection Scheme and the definition of a deposit as the equivalent of one month’s rent;
- An amendment of the legal definition of landlord to include banks and receivers;
- An overhaul of the current standards inspection system and the appropriate resourcing of an effective and efficient inspection system;
- Consideration to be given to abolishing the category of licensee and replacing it with a set of circumscribed tenancy rights;
- The provision of the necessary resources to local authorities to enforce the regulation of short-term lets.
“While homeless prevention strategies have traditionally focused on personal and social challenges such as addiction or mental health, or on specific vulnerable groups such as care leavers, for the majority of people, homelessness occurs on foot of a notice of termination from their private rented home,” McCafferty states. “The evidence indicates that tenancy protection measures in the private rented sector prior to homelessness occurring need strengthening.”
Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden commented: “In 2018, only 5% of expenditure on homeless services was spent on homelessness prevention – €9 million – while emergency accommodation cost the State €147 million. We are asking for more investment in homelessness prevention services; work must also be carried out to identify those living in hidden homelessness so that they may be provided with the appropriate social and housing supports.”
Increasing the supply of homes
Threshold is asking for a commitment to increase all housing stock owned and managed by the Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to 20% by 2033 and 25% by 2040. This figure currently rests at 9%.
“This measure will bring stability and certainty to the housing market,” says Hayden. “As approximately one third of the population require assistance to meet their housing need on an ongoing basis, it will also ensure that the housing need of this group of people is met.
“State-supported housing must expand beyond traditional social housing to a public housing model including, for example, cost-rental and affordable purchase-style schemes. In addition, more intermediate tenures should be developed and delivered upon, such as shared ownership and affordable rental. There is also a need for greater access to home ownership for lower-income households.”
20-year housing strategy
Threshold is seeking a 20-year housing strategy to stretch beyond the lifetime of any one government. This will require the establishment of a Commission on the Future of Housing in Ireland.
“We need a housing system that works for all people,” says Hayden. “This requires time, commitment and a consistent, integrated approach. Housing strategies that only last the lifetime of one government are insufficient and keep us in a highly problematic boom-bust cycle of housing provision.”
The right to a home
Threshold ultimately believes that everyone has a right to a home. “Most of the damage caused by this housing crisis will never be undone. In our view, to even have a chance at stopping the number of people who experience homelessness rising and reversing some of the damage caused, the right to a home needs to be enshrined in the Constitution,” Hayden concluded.
Threshold’s Platform for Action on Housing is available here