Simon Communities study highlights urgent need to increase Rent Supplement limits to address homelessness crisis

Simon Communities study highlights urgent need to increase Rent Supplement limits to address homelessness crisis

Snapshot study reveals worryingly low supply of properties within Rent Supplement / Housing Assistance Payment limits

Seven out of eight properties available to rent are priced beyond the reach of those in receipt of rent supports, a rental sector snapshot study by the Simon Communities in Ireland has found.

Conducted over three days, ‘Locked Out of the Market: The Gap between Rent Supplement/HAP Limits and Market Rents’ highlights the growing disparity between rising rents and Rent Supplement/Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) limits for which have remained unchanged since June 2013. In the preceding two years national rents have increased on average by 18%, according to figures provided by Daft.ie.

The Simon Communities in Ireland believe urgent action is now needed to address the housing and homelessness crisis as it continues to spiral out of control. Increasing Rent Supplement and HAP limits to bring them in line with market prices must now be at the top of the Government’s agenda as the annual Pre Budget Forum takes place this Friday (3rd July). Rent certainty and the introduction of incentives for landlords whose tenants are in receipt of Rent Supplement and HAP, as recommended by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), also must be introduced immediately if the Government is serious about meeting its target of ending long-term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2016.

Locked Out of the Market’, which was conducted in ten regions throughout Ireland in May, also found:

  • There was an average of 1,150 properties available to rent tracked on property website Daft.ie.
  • Of these available properties, just 138 (12%) were available within RS/HAP limits
  • Of these 138:
    • only nine were available within the single person Rent Supplement limit.
    • 17 were within the limit for Rent Supplement for a couple.
    • 69 were within the limit for a couple or single parent with one child.
    • 43 were available for a couple or one parent with two children.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the figures highlight the stark reality of the country’s housing and homelessness crisis:

“Rising rents and a restricted supply of housing are without doubt causing homelessness across the country. People who are homeless or on the very edge of homelessness currently have no hope of accessing the housing they need. In many cases they just cannot afford rents being sought, and Rent Supplement/Hap limits are simply too low as rents continue to escalate.”

“The last Daft.ie rental report highlighted an 8.2% increase in rents in quarter 1 of 2015, while supply dropped to the lowest point in a decade at 4,300 properties available to rent. Meanwhile, the latest Department of the Environment figures show 3,143 adults and 1,118 children in emergency homeless accommodation nationally, and still people are sleeping on our streets night after night.”

“The facts are clear – the number of people becoming homeless continues to increase, and yet one clear approach to addressing this crisis is being ignored. The Government’s decision not to increase rent Supplement limits beyond their June 2013 levels must be reversed immediately. If the Government is committed to addressing homelessness and supporting people on low incomes to access housing, Rent Supplement limits must be brought in line with current market rates. This, along with rent certainty and the introduction of incentives for landlords whose tenants are in receipt of Rent Supplement and HAP payments, would go a significant way to addressing the current crisis.”

“Ahead of this week’s Pre Budget Forum organised by the Department of Social Protection in advance of Budget 2016, we are again making the call for an urgent increase in Rent Supplement and HAP limits, taking into account current market rents.”

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, added that housing plus supports is crucial in dealing with the homelessness crisis.

“We know that every single day this crisis is deepening and the situation on the ground is worsening. More and more people are becoming trapped in emergency accommodation with nowhere else to go.”

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to a Housing First approach to address homelessness. A housing first or housing-led approach supports people to move out of homelessness as quickly as possible and into permanent housing with tailored support services to meet their needs. We know from experience that it works. But without access to affordable housing with support, it will only fail.”

“Currently much focus is on providing emergency responses – while necessary, this should only ever be a temporary measure. To truly address homelessness we need action on prevention and we need housing with support. Medium to long-term solutions have to be implemented and the reasons behind homelessness must be understood – reasons like the escalating rental market.”

“The biggest challenge right now is access to appropriate, affordable housing and, unless urgently addressed, more people will suffer, and more people will end up homeless. Emergency accommodation must be replaced by an offer of housing and not a return to the streets.”

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