The national housing charity, Threshold, has given a cautious welcome to measures announced in today’s Budget to prevent homelessness. Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe announced an increase of €149m in Housing Assistance Payments in 2018. It is envisaged that the extra funding will enable an additional 17,000 households to be supported and accommodated in 2018. He also announced measures to encourage owners of vacant residential property to bring it into the rental market for a minimum of four years.
Commenting, chair of Threshold, Aideen Hayden said: “HAP is an important scheme for supporting low income households in addressing the affordability crisis in the private rented sector and a vital homelessness prevention mechanism. While Threshold welcomes today’s announcement, we are calling for greater clarity on whether existing HAP recipients will see an increase in their limit or if the eligibility of the scheme will be broadened to a wider group.
“We have noticed that renters in receipt of this payment have faced extreme financial strain since the last rate increase. It is our experience that many households have had to pay substantial top-ups to bridge the gap between the HAP limit and the market rents. Such unsustainable top-ups can put tenancies at risk in the longer term, as well as increasing the risk of hardship and going without household essentials in the shorter term. Top-up payments are typically drawn from a tenant’s social welfare payments, meaning that limited financial resources for food, clothing and utilities will be reduced to unsustainable levels.”
She added: “HAP tenancies are with private landlords and are covered by the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016. The security of tenure in these arrangements can be less than social housing tenants, as landlords may terminate such a tenancy if s/he decides to sell the property or require it for a family member. Therefore, we reiterate our call for security of tenure. We are also disappointed that there was no mention of Homeless HAP in Budget 2018.”
Meanwhile, Threshold Chief Executive, John-Mark McCafferty welcomed the Minister’s announcement of a new time-limited deduction for pre-letting expenses, which is aimed at encouraging owners of vacant residential property to bring the property into the rental market for a minimum of four years.
He said: “Threshold called for tax reforms to aid the small-scale landlord in our pre-Budget submission and so I give a cautious welcome to the vacant residential property measure. However, if this is to be successful, it needs to be time specific and I look forward to hearing in more detail what is proposed.”
Threshold wishes to acknowledge the funding support of the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.