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Just 5.5% of rental housing is within standard HAP limits, according to new report

There is a notable shortage of one-bedroom housing for single people and couples, the Simon Communities said.

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File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Fusionstudio

JUST 5.5% OF rental housing stock across the country is within standard Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) limits, according to a new study by the Simon Communities of Ireland.

The report indicates there has been some improvement in the supply of affordable family accommodation in Dublin, where availability of rental property for families has increased since the previous Locked Out of the Market snapshot study in July/August 2019.

However, a notable shortage of one-bedroom housing for single people and couples was recorded in all study areas.

The latest Locked Out report found that just 97 out of 1,753 properties available to rent in 16 areas over a three-day period from 10 to 12 December 2019 on Daft.ie were affordable for those in receipt of standard government-assisted housing payments.

The report found that availability of rental properties increases to 796 properties (representing 45% of all rental properties available) when discretionary rates are included. However, just 16% (128) of these properties are available outside of Dublin city.

The HAP is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need and it is available in all local authority areas.

There were no properties available to rent within standard or discretionary HAP limits for a single person or couple across five study areas:

  • Limerick city centre
  • Waterford city centre
  • Portlaoise in Co Laois 
  • Galway city centre
  • Cork city suburbs

Just one or two properties were available for a single person or a couple in five study areas:

  • Limerick city suburbs
  • Sligo
  • Dundalk in Co Louth 
  • Cork city centre
  • Athlone in Co Westmeath

locked out 1 Source: Locked Out of the Market XVI

The report notes that single people and couples remain disproportionately affected by affordable accommodation availability, with only six properties in total available to rent for single persons and 14 for couples within standard HAP limits.

When discretionary HAP payments are applied, 40 properties were available for single-person households.

Some welcome news in Dublin 

The snapshot study indicates some increases in availability of accommodation for HAP recipients, particularly in Dublin city, where the availability of accommodation within standard and Homeless HAP limits increased from 424 to 668 properties since the previous study in July/August 2019.

This rise was concentrated in properties for families. The HAP discretion rate in the Dublin region is 50%, compared to 20% outside Dublin.

Wayne Stanley, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities, said the results illustrate how the lack of affordable accommodation in the private rental market is prolonging the current housing crisis.

“It is incredibly difficult, particularly for single people, to move on from emergency accommodation and homeless services when looking for HAP accommodation, because all too often there is nowhere else to go.

“In cases where accommodation is found, people are often having to resort to ‘topping up’, undermining the sustainability of that move on,” Stanley said. 

He noted that of the almost 10,500 people living in emergency accommodation, 4,274 of are single or couples. He said these numbers have “risen drastically” since the Locked Out series of reports began in May 2015.

“Two factors have contributed to this situation above all else: an over-reliance on a private rental sector that is inaccessible to many, and insufficient levels of social housing supply.”

Stanley said the building rate of social housing is “not currently at the level that is required to address the number of people in emergency accommodation or on housing waiting lists”.

“For a sustainable long-term solution, there needs to be a significant and sustained increase in the supply of social and affordable housing across all tenure types nationwide,” he added.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Housing for comment on the report’s findings.

When speaking about the HAP scheme in the Dáil last month, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said it “plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals”.

Murphy said that at the end of September 2019, nearly 67,000 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 50,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 29,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme.

He stated that HAP “provides fast, flexible housing support to all eligible households in the area of their choice”.

“Individuals, who in the past were reluctant to avail of full time work as they would lose their Rent Supplement support, can now move to HAP and avail of full-time employment and retain their housing support, with an adjustment in their differential rent,” Murphy added.

Opposition parties have called for a rent freeze as prices have steadily increased in recent years – the average monthly rent is now over €1,200. This is despite Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) laws being introduced in December 2016 by then-Housing Minister Simon Coveney in order to tackle spiralling rents.

Under the legislation, annual rent rises are capped at 4% in certain areas. RPZs are located in areas of the country where rents are highest and where households have the greatest difficulty finding affordable accommodation.

Note: Journal Media Ltd. has shareholders in common with Daft.ie publisher Distilled Media Group.

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Órla Ryan

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