Simon Communities welcome NESC report recommending rent certainty

Simon Communities welcome NESC report recommending rent certainty

Homeless Charity urges immediate implementation of report to help ease the worsening housing and homelessness crisis

The Simon Communities in Ireland have welcomed a new National Economic and Social Council (NESC) report which recommends a range of measures which, if implemented, could have a significant impact on Ireland’s homelessness and housing crisis. The report calls for a secure tenancy model for Ireland which includes greater rent certainty for tenants and landlords. It identifies measures to increase the supply of permanent affordable rental housing, in particular clear and better incentives for the provision of good quality long term rental homes. It also calls for more favourable treatment for landlords with tenants in receipt of Rent Supplement and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

Welcoming ‘Ireland’s Rental Sector: Pathways to Secure Occupancy and Affordable Supply’, Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said:

“Rising rents and restricted access to the private rented sector are without doubt continuing to cause homelessness across this country. People who are homeless or on the very edge of homelessness currently have no hope of accessing the housing they need because they simply cannot afford rents being sought.

“If fully implemented, the recommendations made by NESC in this report would be a significant step in tackling some of the current barriers and problems in the private rented sector where we saw rents increase by 8% in quarter 1 of 2015 and supply drop to the lowest point in a decade. These measures would serve to improve supply, enhance security of tenure and stability for both tenants and landlords – actions which we have been calling on for some time to prevent more people becoming homeless and support people to move out of emergency accommodation.”

“Increasing the supply of rental housing is key to addressing the housing crisis and we are pleased to see this addressed so comprehensively in this report including instruments to encourage provision of affordable rental accommodation e.g. low cost loans and access to state land on favourable terms. Importantly NESC recommends that where state land is used for affordable housing land ownership should remain in the ownership of a state body or voluntary organisation with a long term commitment to provide affordable housing. There are also proposals in relation to taxation to encourage landlords to provide secure occupancy. NESC also recommend “vigorous delivery of the Social Housing Strategy” which we whole heatedly support. In addition, the recommendation to tackle distressed buy-to-let mortgages, of which almost 30,000 are in arrears of more than 90 days, with a view to supporting owners and acquiring some of these properties through purchase or lease for social housing is critical to keep much needed stock in use and to assist owners .”

“With the latest published emergency figures from March showing that there were 3,081 people in emergency homeless accommodation nationally, including 1,054 children, urgent ongoing action is needed to ensure that housing is delivered to those who need it most. Rent supplement and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) limits must be increased and we question the very disappointing decision not to raise Rent Supplement limits announced by the Department of Social Protection and An Tánaiste Joan Burton in March of this year. Make no mistake this is causing homelessness and will continue to do so unless addressed. An increase in these limits coupled with rent certainty as proposed by NESC would protect against market inflation. In addition, we welcome proposals to incentivise landlords whose tenants are in receipt of Rent Supplement and HAP payments. ”

“The Government has committed to ending long term homelessness by 2016, using a housing first approach. 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. 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.”

“These latest emergency accommodation figures from March are of grave concern to us and to the people we support across the country every day. These figures coupled with the latest rough sleeper count figure in Dublin last week – which showed a frightening 151 people had nowhere safe to sleep on one night in April – are just unacceptable. We know that every single day this crisis is deepening and the situation on the ground is worsening. More and more people are trapped in emergency accommodation with nowhere else to go.”

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