Simon Communities warn the homeless crisis is deepening as rents continue to spiral out of control

Simon Communities warn the homeless crisis is deepening as rents continue to spiral out of control

The Simon Communities in Ireland have today warned that the latest figures from the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) Quarterly Rent Index means that vulnerable people and families are being forced into homelessness daily and many people are stuck in emergency accommodation for far too long because of rising rent, housing shortages and inadequate rent supplement payments. They simply have no other option. The figures released and compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) for the PRTB show an increase of 5.8% in rents nationally over the course of 2014, this follows a 3% increase in 2013. Rent for houses was up by b up 4.8% and
apartment rents were up by up 6.4%.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said that details from today’s rent index report are extremely worrying.

“It’s clear that there is a substantial gap between rent supplement and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) caps and the actual rents being sought. This gap makes it virtually impossible for most of the people we work with to access private rented housing; it is preventing them from moving out of homelessness. People who are homeless or on the very edge of homelessness currently have no hope of accessing the housing they need. This results in people on the single persons supplement competing with couples for the same small number of properties and they are immediately at a disadvantage due to their single status. This is compounded by the fact that the number of one
bedroom housing units is extremely limited yet we know 44% of those on the social housing waiting list are single. The pressure on this aspect of the market is seen with rents for apartments increasing by 6.4%. Vulnerable people and families are being pushed over the edge into homelessness and at the same time people are being prevented from leaving homelessness. It is inevitable that already stretched and overflowing homeless services will see even more people knocking on their doors.”

“The severe shortage of social housing is adding further to the problem. We need to prevent more people from becoming homeless, especially those currently losing their rented homes due to these inadequate rent supplement caps and we need to ensure that people can move out of homelessness too. It’s clear that rent supplement and HAP limits are just two low and must be raised as a matter of urgency. Protection for tenants in the Private Rented Sector is poor and tenants are very vulnerable. Recognising this, we must make the changes necessary to offer greater rent certainty and increased security of tenure to those renting their homes. It is heartening to hear Minister Alan Kelly’s speech at the recent Labour Party conference where he spoke about plans to offer greater rent certainty, these plans must be expedited as those who are vulnerable and at risk of homelessness cannot wait any longer.”

“This latest PRTB report showing that the cost of renting is continuing to rise nationally is of grave concern to us and to the people we support across the country. Annual growth in the capital has seen rents rise by 9.6% with house rents up by 7% and apartments higher again and up by 10.9%. Rent prices are rising outside of Dublin too with a 3.9% increase so it is critical that this is not just seen as a Dublin only problem. These figures, when taken into account alongside recent figures from the Rental Report paint a very bleak picture about what is happening around the country. Rents are continuing to rise and the number of properties available to rent have reduced significantly, and are now at the lowest levels of availability nationwide since May 2007. reported that that on Feb 1st there were just 550 properties available to rent across Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. This is a frighteningly low number of properties.”

“This housing and homeless crisis is impacting people all across Ireland – young people, families and children, older people, people with severe health problems, people battling drug and alcohol issues, people this state has failed from a young age, people in urban and rural areas. We welcome the investment in social housing announced as part of Budget 2015 and the Social Housing Strategy 2020, however this will only meet the housing needs of less than 17% of the 90,000 currently on the housing list. This is further compounded by the fact that there are more than 37,000 mortgages in arrears for two years or more and the fact that Irish house prices are predicted to rise at the fastest
rate in Europe this year, the need to address the chronic housing crisis has never been as urgent as it is now. Any solution to this housing shortage must involve all aspects of the housing market – the private rented sector, home ownership and social housing. It must be all encompassing.”

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said that improving access to affordable housing must be addressed now if the Government are serious about their commitment to end homelessness by 2016.

“We welcome recent progress especially, in response to the homelessness emergency – and we support developments to try to ensure that no one is sleeping on our streets at night and Ministerial direction for Housing Authorities in relation to housing allocations. However, the extra beds allocated in December are mostly full. We must ensure greater numbers of people do not end up trapped long-term in emergency accommodation where there are currently 3,000 people, almost 870 children each night. The emergency accommodation measures announced in the 20 Point Action Plan in December must only be used in the short-term and now these emergency beds must be
replaced by an offer of housing and not a return to the streets.”

“The Government has committed to ending long term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2016, using a housing first approach. 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. We know from experience that it works. It is essential that the Government does not lose sight of this goal and they ensure that people who are homeless have access to long-term homes with the right support. The biggest challenge right now is access to appropriate, affordable housing and, unless urgently addressed, more people will suffer, more people will end up homeless and the Government will fail to achieve their 2016 target.”

The Simon Communities deliver support and service to over 6,000 people and families who experience – or are at risk of – homelessness on an annual basis.

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