Threshold’s new housing advice centre in Cork will be officially opened today by Mr. Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The new centre located at 22 South Mall provides free and confidential information, advice and support for people with housing problems. Threshold’s Cork Advice Centre helped 4,426 people in 2006, by challenging threats of eviction, helping people to recover rent deposits from landlords, and by seeking improvements for people in substandard accommodation. Cork Threshold estimates that one in every six people living in the private rented sector over the past five years has sought its help.
Margaret O’Neill, Co-ordinator of the Cork Advice Centre, said:
“Threshold is committed to preventing homelessness in Cork. The vast majority of our clients have little money and little choice about where they can afford to live. Almost two-thirds of our clients in 2006 had an income below the minimum wage. With limited financial resources of their own, a problem with their accommodation can quickly escalate into a crisis. Many of our clients are just one week’s rent away from a serious problem; for example, if they fall into rent arrears due to ill health, if their landlord increases the rent, or if the landlord fails to return their deposit when they leave.
Threshold can intervene before problems become unmanageable, by negotiating with the landlord or by helping the tenant to locate alternative accommodation. Threshold can also support a tenant to take a dispute with their landlord to the Private Residential Tenancies Board.”
Threshold is a national not-for-profit organisation established in 1978. Threshold’s housing advice services are focused on people who are in greatest need of support, mainly people living at the low-priced end of the rented market, people living in social housing, and people who are homeless. The number of immigrants seeking Threshold’s help is also growing considerably. Threshold provides advice on housing rights, mediates with landlords or local authorities on behalf of tenants with problems, and supports tenants who bring disputes to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. Last year, Threshold helped over 20,000 people through its advice centres in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick.
According to Census figures, the private rented sector in Cork grew by 78% between 1991 and 2002, from 9,777 households in 1991 to 17,389 households in 2002. Census 2006 figures are likely to show a further large increase. Rented accommodation in Cork is expensive for families on modest incomes. For example, a family with three children will currently pay an average of €1,083 per month for a three-bedroom home. For a family living on average industrial earnings [€30,125 pa], this represents 45% of their income, while for a family on minimum wage [€17,264 pa] it is three-quarters (75%) of their income.
Other problems include the poor quality of accommodation at the lower end of the market. Callers to Threshold have encountered problems such as damp and mould growing on walls and ceilings, a lack of hot and cold running water, and vermin infestation. This seriously impacts on the quality of life of families and children.
Threshold’s Cork Advice Centre is staffed by three full-time workers, one part-time worker and eight FÁS Community Employment workers. Its opening hours are from 9.30am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. People with a housing problem can make an appointment or drop in to the centre. They can also have their query answered by phone: 021-4278848, email: email@example.com, or by letter.
Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said:
“Some of the poorest people in Cork live in private rented accommodation. More than two-thirds of people on local authority waiting lists are living in rented accommodation, while almost 7,000 people are in receipt of rent supplement. Vulnerable people who fear losing their home if they complain to their landlord, or who have nowhere to turn when they get illegally evicted, deserve the professional help and support provided by Threshold.
Our new Cork advice centre, like our previous home on Fr. Mathew Quay, has been provided through the generous support of the Capuchin Order who have been great friends to Threshold since our establishment. We would also like to thank the Dormant Accounts Fund, Construction Industry Federation, People in Need Trust, the Loreto Foundation and a number of prominent Cork business people for their invaluable support.”