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Threshold Welcomes Social Housing Strategy

26 November 2014

Threshold Welcomes Social Housing Strategy: Highlights Immediate Measures Needed to Address Homelessness  

Threshold, the national housing charity, has welcomed the social housing strategy announced by Government today (26.11.14), but said immediate measures must be taken to help families facing homelessness.

Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to deliver 35,000 additional social housing units by 2020, as well as 75,000 more secure homes in the private rented sector. 

“The promised investment of €3.8 billion in housing is also, obviously, to be welcomed. Funding for social housing was decimated during the recession, with the result that there are now 90,000 families on waiting lists for social housing. It will take a long-term and strategic approach to undo the damage done in recent years.”

Mr. Jordan said his biggest concern about the new social housing strategy was the likely timeline for its implementation.

“There are thousands of families throughout Ireland with a housing need right now,” he said. “In some cases, these families are experiencing, or facing, homelessness. They cannot afford to wait for two or more years, while the Government gets new social housing construction underway. They need assistance right now. 

“In the strategy published today, the Government outlines its ambition to house 75,000 people in the private rented sector – through the Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme. However, the private rented sector is currently in crisis, with rent levels spiralling out of control. Government-supported schemes have not kept pace: you only have to look at how Rent Supplement tenants are faring at present to see this is the case.

“If the Government is really serious about housing 75,000 people in private rented accommodation over the next five years, they need to address the issues impacting on the rental market. Firstly, they need to ensure the supports they provide to those with a housing need are in line with market rates for rent. At present, this is not the case and – unless Rent Supplement limits are increased – people availing of this scheme will continue to be forced into homelessness because they cannot afford landlords’ requests for increased rents.    

"Secondly, the Government needs to regulate the rental market, so that unfair rent hikes are avoided in future years. One-fifth of families in Ireland now rent their homes, and they need to be given certainty that they will not be subjected to unaffordable rent increases at sporadic intervals. Until a system of rent regulation is introduced, those living in the private rented sector will continue to face this risk.”

Mr. Jordan said that, of the 35,000 new social housing units promised in the strategy, a reasonable proportion should be set aside for families and individuals currently experiencing homelessness.

"The Government’s homelessness strategy – which was published last year – commits to ending long-term homelessness by 2016. We would like more detail on how the homelessness strategy is aligned with the social housing strategy published today; obviously, the two policies are complementary, and it is important that they would be implemented in a cohesive way. 

“In order to achieve that target of ending homelessness by 2016, the Government needs to ring-fence a percentage of new social housing for families and individuals currently experiencing homelessness.”