Rent Supplement safety net failing to keep people out of homelessness

Simon Communities study finds 95% of properties available to rent beyond their reach of those in receipt of rent supplement/HAP payments

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

  • 4.5% (34) of all properties available to rent were at or below rent supplement/HAP limits across 11 locations in the November study period.
  • 1 property was available to rent within the limits for a single person across all 11 locations.
  • Just 1 property was available to rent within the rent supplement / HAP limits for all of the four household types* in six of the locations: Athlone, Dublin City Centre, Dundalk, Galway City Centre, Limerick City Centre and Portlaoise.
  • Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) must be increased across the board and greater security of tenure provided for those in the private rented sector.

95% of properties available to rent are priced beyond the reach of people depending on state rent supports for their housing, a snapshot study by the Simon Communities in Ireland has found. There was just one property available to rent for a single person within rent supplement/HAP limits over the three day study period; this was in Leitrim. These shocking findings show that the housing and homeless crisis needs action before the current Government leaves office. It cannot wait.

Conducted over three consecutive days in November, ‘Locked Out of the Market III: The Gap Between Rent Supplement/HAP Limits and Market Rents’ highlights the extent of the shrinking private rented market as the ever increasing gap between rising rents and rent supplement/ housing assistance payments (HAP) limits.  The Simon Communities also undertook this study in May and August 2015. Rents have increase by 32.3% since April 2012 while rent limits have remained unchanged since June 2013.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the figures show that the housing and homeless crisis rages on and that the Government still has the opportunity and power to address these urgent issues.

‘People who are single fared particularly badly with only one property available across the 11 locations falling within rent supplement/HAP limits for a single person. Yet we know 44% of those on the social housing waiting list are single. There were no properties available within any of the limits in Kildare. Just one property was available to rent within all of the four categories in six of the locations; Athlone, Dublin City Centre, Dundalk, Galway City Centre, Limerick City Centre and Portlaoise. In Galway, Athlone and Dundalk the only properties available for a couple/one parent and child were one bedroom properties and we would have to question the suitability of a one bedroomed property for this household type. Rent Supplement is meant to provide a safety net for people and families at a time of need to support them into or to remain in housing. Clearly it is not fulfilling this vital role.

“This is the third time the Simon Communities have undertaken the Locked Out study and each time we can see the crisis escalating further. Now a staggering 95% of properties are out of reach for people receiving state housing support. Rent Supplement/HAP limits are simply too low as rents continue to escalate and this is pushing people into homelessness as well as preventing people from leaving homelessness behind. We are still in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis. It requires political will to introduce the measures necessary to bring relief to those people who are severely affected. This Government still has the power to make the changes needed and they must take decisive action to address these issues now.”

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the Simon Communities have the following recommendations.

“We need an immediate increase on RS/HAP payment limits, enhanced prevention and early intervention responses to ensure people remain in their homes where possible and a plan for the Private Rented Sector to ensure greater stability and security of tenure. Better use must be made of existing empty properties, houses and local authority homes. We badly need more social housing, just 28 units were built by Local Authorities in 2015 according to the Department of the Environment figures to date. Local Authorities must get back into the business of building and delivering social housing. NAMA could also pay a role in building and providing social housing.”

“There must be an expectation that people will move on from emergency accommodation. This needs to be the expectation of people who are homeless; this needs to be the expectation of staff and volunteers and this needs to be the expectation of our Government – we are in fact told this is the case with the commitment to the housing first approach in the Homelessness Policy Statement. Emergency accommodation must only be an urgent, short-term response; longer-term plans must also be in place. Access to affordable housing with support is the most cost-effective and proven solution to the housing and homeless crisis.”

* The four RS/HAP Limit Categories looked at were; Single Person; Couple; Couple/one parent with one Child; and Couple/one parent with two Children.

* daft.ie

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