Threshold, the national housing charity, has welcomed the investment in social housing announced by the Government in Budget 2015, but criticised the fact that no measures have yet been announced to address the flawed Rent Supplement scheme.
Commenting today (14.10.14), Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said: “The investment of €2.2 billion to provide 10,000 social housing units over the next three years is obviously welcome. We are emerging from a period where investment in social housing had practically come to a standstill, so this is a badly needed measure.
“The commitments in today’s Budget announcement will not, unfortunately, be enough to fully address the current housing crisis. However, they are a significant first step. As the economy improves, we hope to see further evidence that the Government is truly committed to investing in social housing.”
Mr. Jordan said he was pleased to see the Government looking at more innovative finance models to provide for the high levels of social housing currently needed in Ireland.
“Threshold has called on the Government to develop more innovative finance solutions for social housing,” he said. “It makes sense that the public funding available should be leveraged to attract private investment and maximise its impact. The establishment of an off-balance sheet vehicle to provide funding for voluntary housing bodies and the focus on Public Private Partnerships are welcome in this regard.”
Housing Assistance Payment
Mr. Jordan also welcomed the announcement that 8,000 households would be supported through the Housing Assistance Payment next year, but said the scheme needs to be mainstreamed more quickly.
“Approximately half the 74,000 households currently availing of Rent Supplement should be moved on to the Housing Assistance Payment instead,” he said. “This would remove the poverty trap inherent in the Rent Supplement scheme because the Housing Assistance Payment allows flexibility for claimants to enter the workforce. It would also address many of the administrative flaws associated with Rent Supplement.”
Mr. Jordan welcomed the announcement of an additional €10 million to tackle homelessness. “This is recognition by the Government of the increased numbers falling into homelessness, and the huge pressure that this places on frontline service-providers like Threshold,” he said. “We would like to see more resources dedicated to the prevention of homelessness, as well as emergency accommodation and move-on housing.”
Home Renovation Incentive Scheme
Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, welcomed the extension of the Home Renovation Incentive scheme to cover rental properties. “The omission of rental properties from this scheme was an oversight when it was announced last year,” she said. “Threshold pointed this out to the Minister for Finance at the time, and we are glad to see he has taken on board our advice.
“Those living in accommodation at the lower end of the private rented market, in particular, spend a disproportionate amount of their small incomes on utilities. This is due to inefficiencies in the buildings they live in, which are often old, poorly insulated and in need of repair. The extension of the Home Renovation Incentive scheme now gives added impetus to those who own rental properties that are in need of up-grading and repair, and we hope to see landlords availing of this scheme to improve standards in private rented accommodation.”
Rent Supplement Reform
Senator Hayden said Threshold had repeatedly called for increased Rent Supplement limits to address the problems currently facing low-income households.
“Families in large urban centres, in particular, are being priced out of the rental market, with over 160 families in Dublin now being accommodated in hotels after losing their rental accommodation” she said. “The current Rent Supplement limits are simply not keeping pace with market rents. We have repeatedly called for reform of the Rent Supplement scheme, and we are hoping that the Tánaiste’s announcement later today will address this issue.”