Patrick Burke, Director of Threshold, today called on the government to right the wrongs done to people in housing crisis over the last two budgets. In its pre-budget submission, Threshold is calling for restrictions in rent supplement eligibility to be reversed, the amount of rent supplement to be increased to reflect the real cost of renting, and for 10,000 new social houses to be built in 2005.
“Government restrictions have reduced the safety net of rent supplement to the size of a postage stamp. A lack of progress on social housing has meant that waiting lists grow and grow. What do waiting lists mean when some people are told they will never be housed? It is time for the government to get serious about housing poverty. Righting the wrongs of the past two budgets would be a welcome beginning.”
Restrictions on rent supplement eligibility introduced in last year’s budget estimates have created confusion and widespread hardship.
– New applicants for rent supplement must now pay their own rent for six months before becoming eligible for rent supplement. This has made life intolerable for people living in overcrowded conditions, people affected by relationship breakdown, women and children fleeing domestic violence and young people moving from rural to urban areas to seek employment.
– The rule where people cannot receive rent supplement if their spouse is working over 30 hours per week discourages people from looking for work, especially low-paid work. People on low wages need the support of rent supplement to pay their rent.
– The choice restriction rule denies assistance to people who refuse offers of local authority housing or who leave such accommodation without reasonable cause.
Threshold is calling for restrictions on rent supplement eligibility to be reversed in the 2005 Estimates.
Last year’s restrictions came on top of the cap on rent supplement introduced in the 2003 Estimates. Under the restrictions, each health board introduced maximum rent levels above which rent supplement would be denied. The rent cap has forced many people in crisis, particularly single people and small families with children, to live in cramped and rundown accommodation.
Threshold’s Access Housing Unit (AHU) helps people who are homeless to move out of homeless services and into private rented accommodation. A survey conducted by the AHU in September 2004 found the average cost of the most basic bedsit in Dublin was €121, whereas the maximum allowable rent cap in is €115. The rent cap has severely restricted the AHU’s work to help people move out of homelessness.
Threshold is calling for rent caps to be raised to reflect the real cost of renting.
Also rent caps should not restrict people who are homeless moving out of emergency accommodation and into the private rented sector.
The Government’s National Development Plan commitment of 40,100 additional local authority starts by 2007 will not be met based on current output levels. The number of social houses built in 2005 must increase drastically to meet even these modest targets.
Threshold is calling for substantially increased capital spending to ensure 10,000 units of social housing are provided in 2005.
Budget 2005 should also set specific and measurable targets for reductions in local authority waiting lists and waiting times.