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Prevention of homelessness an achievable, cost-effective alternative to emergency accommodation in 2020 – Threshold Annual Report 2018

4 December 2019

Threshold_AnnualReport_2018

Threshold 2018 Annual Report shows our services saved over 11,000 from homelessness

A failure to step up and stop homelessness will lead to yet more human misery as evicted families look to emergency services for shelter and support, the national housing charity Threshold has said.

“The latest Government figures showing that 10,514 people were living in emergency accommodation in October are shocking,” according to Threshold’s Chairperson Aideen Hayden. “But the report we are publishing this morning shows that a further 11,500 people were only kept in their homes last year because of interventions by Threshold.

“So the situation would be more than twice as serious were it not for these homelessness prevention services.”

Threshold launched its annual report for 2018 today, showing that in that year it answered an average of 321 calls every day from tenants needing support.

“When these figures are published every month, people can often feel powerless to do anything about the housing and homelessness crisis. This report shows there are real solutions.  Prevention services really work; supports in the community can keep vulnerable people in their homes; and a long-term social housing building programme is required.  Lack of long-term planning got us here.  Proper planning for the future can get us out of here,” she said.

According to Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty: “In the year 2018 alone we carried out 67,710 actions on behalf of tenants to fight for their homes. 

“Whether it was making a call, providing legal representation or helping someone to navigate the complex laws underpinning tenants’ rights. Because of this work, we stopped 5,161 households from becoming homeless.  That’s 4,451 children and 7,111 adults who would have lost their homes without Threshold’s support.

“There are also many hidden homeless people who are couch surfing, staying with family and friends, and living in very overcrowded conditions.  These people are not showing up in homelessness figures, but they are facing a housing crisis and need solutions.

“The vulnerability of tenants under Irish law has undoubtedly contributed to the lack of public enthusiasm for renting as a long-term housing option. Our 2018 Tenant Sentiment Survey showed most of our clients are not renting by choice.  71% say they rent because they cannot afford to buy.  The rental sector remains unattractive to many, and providing security of tenure, as well as affordability, to renters would change the perception of renting, and make the Private Rented Sector a secure place to call home for many in Ireland.”

According to Threshold’s chairperson Aideen Hayden: “Stopping homelessness is at the core of what we do, and it is a moral, social and fiscal imperative. As well as the benefit to the health, well-being and future prospects of these children, parents, couples and single people – the most cost-effective way to stop homelessness is to prevent it before it happens.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • “Of the notices of termination we dealt with, we found that over half of them were invalid and we helped clients challenge them,” said McCafferty.  Three quarters of notices of termination issued to tenants in 2018 did not arise from any assertion that a tenant had perpetrated any wrongdoing. The single biggest reason given for notices of termination was that the property was to be sold, and the incidence of this was higher than in 2017.

 

  • Threshold represented 254 clients at the Residential Tenancies Board in 2018, almost three times the number in 2017.  There was also an increase in the number of tenants seeking support in relation to mass eviction cases.

 

  • There was an increase in the number of cases of discrimination against tenants in receipt of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in 2018.  Under the law a landlord cannot discriminate against people on the grounds that they are in receipt of rent supplement, HAP or other social welfare payments.  Threshold supported six clients to take cases for discrimination to the Workplace Relations Commission.  However, some landlords continue to refuse to accept HAP or rent supplement, thus preventing households from getting a home. 

 

  • Some tenants are paying unaffordable “top-ups” to their landlord as the HAP rate is far below market rent.  These tenants are being forced into extreme financial hardship and poverty.

 

  • The cases are becoming increasingly complex, requiring in-depth legal knowledge and resources.  This is due to the complexity of the legislation, the shortage of housing in Ireland and the ongoing rent increases across the country.  The tenants’ stories presented in the annual report illustrate the complex nature of the work.

 

“We are particularly concerned about the number of ‘no-fault’ notices to quit, with 74% of them involving no wrongdoing on the tenant’s part,” McCafferty concluded.  The lack of affordable rented housing makes tenancies who receive a notice of termination very vulnerable to homelessness.”