The national housing charity Threshold, has today (09.10.16), called on Government to put in place a national strategy for the private rented sector to tackle the crisis of homelessness among families. Ahead of the budget, the charity has submitted a number of policy recommendations aimed at protecting tenants in the private rented sector, and preventing more households from becoming homeless.
The chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden, said: “The current crisis in the private rented sector has been caused by a perfect storm of skyrocketing rents, shortage of supply and a regulatory framework that simply does not support long-term renting. Disproportionate rent increases, in particular, are pushing hundreds of families into homelessness at an accelerated rate.
“Threshold is working on the front line and speaking to families around the country on a daily basis – we are well aware of the needs of many vulnerable tenants. We welcome Minister Coveney’s Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness and are calling for the immediate, national roll-out of the Tenancy Protection Service (TPS), as outlined in the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan. Threshold’s TPS in Dublin, Cork and Galway is preventing thousands of people from becoming homeless each year: In the past year in Cork alone, 2,600 people have been prevented from becoming homeless, and the number in Dublin far exceeds this. The TPS is proven to be far more cost effective than providing emergency accommodation.
‘‘Ahead of the budget, we are proposing a number of recommendations and solutions to the homelessness crisis. These recommendations include supporting low income households and preventing homelessness through the extension of Threshold’s Tenancy Protection Service; establishing a framework for long-term funding of housing advisory services; and conducting an assessment on the level of ‘hidden homelessness’ in Ireland.
‘‘It is welcome that Minister Coveney has acknowledged the need to utilise vacant properties to help to address the lack of adequate housing supply. However, many tenants are also losing their homes when property is being bought and sold. Tenants are being evicted when people decide to sell or discontinue renting their properties and it is critical that legal safeguards are put in place to ensure that people can remain in their tenancies during and after the sale of property. Threshold has made recommendations to Government to put in place new, legal safeguards for tenants in buy-to-let properties which fall into the hands of receivers, and their homes are not put at risk.
‘‘We are seeing an increase in the amount of people who are working in full time employment who are at risk of becoming homeless – it is vital that a lid is put on rising costs for tenants and that low income houses are supported. Rent certainty is crucial in this instance, and any rent increases need to be reasonable. Threshold advocates for an increase in the supply of affordable housing, including the rolling out of an affordable rental scheme model nationwide and a full review of the Housing Assistance Payment and Rent Allowance schemes.
‘‘Threshold is concerned that the current assessment of housing need and measurement of homelessness does not include hidden homelessness. We are seeing increasing numbers of cases of persons who are living with friends and family members or couch-surfing, and this rise in hidden homelessness is unsustainable. The Government needs to conduct research into this issue and take this into account when assessing and addressing the level of homelessness in Ireland.
“Above all, is the need for a national strategy for the private rented sector. The sector provides homes for one in five households in Ireland, yet remains the most expensive and least secure form of housing in Ireland. Threshold is calling on the Government to take action in this week’s budget to tackle the homelessness crisis in the long term by providing an affordable and secure private rented sector as an urgent priority.”
Aideen Hayden concluded: “It is time for the Government to put their commitments into action and publish the strategy for the private rented sector as outlined in the recent Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness report. As part of Budget 2017 we hope to see that the proposed national strategy is adequately resourced so as to enable Government to address issues such as long-term rent certainty and increasing affordable supply.”
To read the submission please click here
Threshold wishes to acknowledge funding received from the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.