Threshold Outlines Recommendations Ahead of Emergency Summit on Homelessness

4 December 2014

Threshold, the national housing charity, has outlined the critical measures that need to be taken to address the current homelessness crisis.  In advance of attending the Government’s emergency summit on homelessness, which takes place later today (04.12.14), the organisation said three measures must be implemented immediately to stem the rising tide of homelessness witnessed in recent months:

  1. The introduction of increased limits for Rent Supplement.
  2. The introduction of rent regulation to curb spiralling rent increases.
  3. The speedy implementation of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). 

Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold, said: “The Government is convening this emergency summit to brainstorm around ideas for addressing homelessness in a very immediate, short-term way.  Throughout 2014, we have been calling for increased Rent Supplement limits because we know the current Rent Supplement rates are completely out of line with market rents, and this is one of the factors driving people into homelessness.  Introducing increased limits is a very obvious solution, and one that could be instigated by Government by the New Year. 

“Threshold does not accept the argument that increasing Rent Supplement limits for vulnerable people will drive up rents generally.  Keeping Rent Supplement limits below market rents has done nothing to dampen rent increases.  All it has done is drive vulnerable families into homelessness.  

“We have also consistently highlighted the need for the Government to introduce rent regulation to curb spiralling rents.  One in five families live in the private rented sector, and they need certainty that they can remain in their homes in the long term; that their children can continue to attend their local schools; and that they won’t be forced out of where they live because of exorbitant rent increases. 

 At the moment, landlords can introduce arbitrary rent increases to whatever extent they like.  We are receiving numerous calls every day from tenants who face losing their homes because they have been subjected to rent hikes, with many being asked to pay as much as 20 per cent more than their current rent. 

“Families are being forced out of their homes because of these drastic rent increases.  The only way to address this situation in the short term is to properly regulate the sector.

“Finally, the Housing Assistance Payment needs to be mainstreamed immediately.  Approximately half the 74,000 households currently availing of Rent Supplement should be moved on to the Housing Assistance Payment instead.  This would remove the poverty trap inherent in the Rent Supplement scheme because the Housing Assistance Payment allows flexibility for people to take up work while still getting some support with their housing costs.  It would also address many of the administrative flaws associated with Rent Supplement.”

 Mr. Jordan is attending this evening’s emergency summit on the homelessness crisis on behalf of Threshold. 

 Changing Nature of Homelessness

Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, also commented in advance of the event, highlighting how the nature of homelessness has changed in recent times. 

“What we have witnessed this year is more and more families falling into homelessness,” she said.  “It is an issue that still, predominantly, affects single men, but families and individuals who wouldn’t traditionally have been at risk are now increasingly facing homelessness. 

“The reasons for this are simple.  Market rents have been allowed to spiral out of control, and Rent Supplement limits have not kept pace.  It is entirely possible to take immediate steps to address this issue.  In the short term, we need increased Rent Supplement limits, rent regulation to ensure certainty for families in the private rented sector, and the mainstreaming of the Housing Assistance Payment.  In the long term, we need to increase housing supply and put in place strategic policies that ensure this situation does not happen again.”