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92% drop in affordable properties in 10 months as opposition says housing crisis 'getting worse'

The Simon Community has called for HAP rates to be increased to deal with the rising cost of housing.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Apr 7th 2022, 11:45 AM

THERE WERE JUST 80 properties available for people receiving the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to rent across 16 areas of the country, a new report shows.

A new report from the Simon Communities of Ireland for the first quarter of 2022 shows that there was a 92% drop in the number of affordable houses since June 2021, when there were 906 properties available.

Just 80 properties were available across the four HAP categories – single people, couples, couple/single parent plus a child and a couple or single parent with two children.

The figures are particularly stark for single people accessing HAP, with just one property available within standard HAP limits. Adding discretionary HAP limits only added one additional property.

A total of 737 properties were available to rent at any price across the 16 areas, which is a 445% drop from the previous report in December 2021, where there were 1,349 properties on the rental market.

The 16 areas were: Athlone, Cork City Centre, Cork City Suburbs, Dublin City north, Dublin City south, Dublin City Centre, Dundalk, Galway City suburbs, Galway City Centre, Kildare, Leitrim, Limerick City suburbs, Limerick City Centre, Sligo town, Portlaoise and Waterford City Centre.

A majority of the affordable properties under HAP were available in Dublin, due to discretionary HAP rates allowing an additional 50% compared to the standard rate.

This discretionary rate is limited to 20% in other local authority areas outside of Dublin, with the Simon Community calling for it to be increased outside the capital.

Wayne Stanley, Head of Policy and Communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland said that the report was “shocking”.

“The vast contrast between this Locked Out report and the last Locked Out report is shocking. The latest homeless figures saw 6,825 adults living in emergency homeless accommodation; the highest number of adults in homelessness ever recorded by the Department,” said Stanley.

“These numbers must be addressed and action must be taken before the situation escalates further. We need a housing system that works for everyone.”

He called for the discretionary HAP rates to be raised up to 50% across the country and for the standard rates to be reassessed by the Department of Housing.

“HAP rates have remained stagnant since 2016 and rents continue to rise. Since then, the national average rent has risen by over 40%.

This means the most vulnerable are left to pay unsustainable top-ups, putting them at risk of tenancy breakdown and homelessness.

“We need to ensure our rental market is affordable and secure, so that it prevents individuals and families from being evicted into homelessness.”

Opposition parties have been reacting to the report, with Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan stating that it shows “the housing crisis is getting worse not better”. 

“The Housing Minister claims the provision of affordable housing is a priority for the government, but where is the evidence of that? House prices and rents are exponentially increasing, while the number of properties available to rent is shrinking rapidly,” he said. 

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan said there must be an increase in HAP supports. 

“There are many low to middle income earners who avail of the HAP scheme as they are in the high rent, low security private rental sector. The scheme was designed to provide long-term, secure and affordable rent, but it is no longer working,” she said.

Housing for All

The report from the homeless charity comes as the government published its third progress report of the Housing for All strategy

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The report also covers the first quarter of this year with the government stating that, on the question of rented accomodation, tenants are moving into Cost Rental homes at Enniskerry Road in Dublin with further schemes scheduled to come on stream in the coming months. 

The report also says there has been some improvements on affordability, with homes provided under the Local Authority Affordable Purchase Scheme up to 20% below open market values. 

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien also pointed to planning applications by the Land Development Agency to build homes on the site of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum and at Castlelands, Balbriggan.

“These affordable measures will be complemented in the coming months with the launch of the ‘First Home’ shared equity scheme, which will help first-time buyers purchase new homes,” he said. 

In all, the report says that of the 213 actions in Housing for All, 135 have been delivered or progressed. Of the 20 measures due for delivery in Q1 2022, 12 were delivered on schedule. 

The report also references the war in Ukraine and the effect it will have on the housing situation here, both in terms of the amiability of materials and the need to accomodate arriving refugees. 

“Delivery of Housing for All is now more important than ever as we respond to the grave humanitarian crisis brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said. 

“We recognise that the wider implications of the conflict in Ukraine will present challenges and Government is keeping under close and active review the challenges arising for the construction sector and the housing market. We must now redouble our efforts to deliver Housing for All at scale and pace, increasing housing supply across all tenures and ensuring a sustainable housing system for the future.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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