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'Post-Covid we'll go back to where we were': More than 60% of properties still cost more than HAP limits

Homeless numbers are down but Simon Communities says the full impact of the pandemic will only be seen when restrictions are lifted permanently.

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AN ‘AFFORDABILITY CRISIS’ will continue to drive people into homelessness after the pandemic without stronger supports from the State, homeless charity the Simon Communities of Ireland has warned.

The charity’s quarterly ‘Locked Out’ report has highlighted the continued shortage of homes across the country for Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) recipients, despite an improvement overall in homeless figures.

The report assessed available properties over a three-day period (14-16 December 2020) and found there were 3,019 properties available to rent at any price within 16 areas of study.

Just four properties were available within standard HAP limits for a single person and a further 95 properties were found within discretionary limits for single people – local authorities can use their discretion to issue a higher payment to source suitable accommodation for homeless households.

Six of the 16 study areas did not have a single property available within either standard or discretionary HAP limits in any of the four family categories (singles, couples, families with one child, families with two children). The vast majority (95%) of properties available within HAP limits were in Dublin.

Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland said Ireland still has an affordability crisis across the housing system and this is what will drive people into homelessness.

“What this report shows is that the single person doesn’t fare well, but the availability of accommodation has increased in the Dublin region.

Over the last year we have seen a significant fall in the number of people in homeless emergency accommodation since 2019. Homeless numbers have gone down almost 20%. 

That’s due to a number of factors; the number of people coming into homelessness has fallen, the moratorium the government brought in on people being evicted during the last year and the prevention of rent increases.

“However, we do know official numbers don’t show the full extent of the homeless crisis, as the measures taken mask the structural issues that lead to increases in homelessness.”

There were 1,160 properties available under a standard or discretionary limit in at least one of the four household categories, representing 38% of the total properties available.

This represents a significant 57% increase on the 738 properties which were available within at least one HAP category in the charity’s September study.

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“We are concerned that when the restrictions are eventually lifted, we’ll go back to where we were or worse as we haven’t seen the full effect of fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Stanley said.

We need greater discretion on HAP payments for local authorities outside Dublin. Allocation of local authority housing across Ireland to get people out of homelessness combined with a programme of building that’s going to provide the needed level of social and affordable housing.

“We also need a better understanding of hidden homelessness and outreach services into communities to stop homelessness before it starts.”

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