Homeless and housing crisis must be a top priority for the next government

19/02/2016

Four national homelessness charities have come together to urge all parties and groups to commit to making homelessness and housing a top priority if elected. Focus Ireland, Simon Communities of Ireland, Society of St Vincent de Paul and Threshold said that the housing and homeless crisis shows no signs of abating and that the numbers in emergency accommodation have reached alarming levels.

“There are now over 5,000 people in emergency accommodation nationally – 2,564 adults with no dependants and 775 families with 1,616 children according the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government December 2015 figures. This is reflects a 40% increase in total numbers and a 90% increase in the number of families since December 2014. Once people and families become homeless, they run a high risk of being stuck in emergency accommodation with nowhere to call a home. Emergency accommodation must only be an urgent, short-term response; longer-term plans to provide a real home must also be in place. Access to affordable housing with support is the most cost-effective and proven solution to addressing the housing and homeless crisis. Preventing homelessness by supporting people to stay in the homes they have and ensuring the provision of affordable housing with support are critical. This can only be achieved by making the private rented sector fit for purpose and urgently increasing the provision of social housing.”

“We are urging candidates to ensure that their party or group develop a comprehensive plan for the private rented sector to ensure greater stability, affordability and enhance security of tenure. The number of private rented properties on the market is the lowest on record; meanwhile more people are renting today than at any time since the 1950’s. These tenants need more security and stability which can be achieved through measures such as full rent certainty with rents linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Rent Supplement/HAP levels must be increased to reflect real rent levels; they have remained the same since 2013; while rents have substantially increased. People and families who rely on these payments cannot compete on the market for rental properties. Action must be taken to reduce the number of households facing homelessness because a financial institution is repossessing their landlord’s property.”

“The problems with the private rental sector are compounded by the lack of social housing supply. There are at least 90,000 people on the social housing waiting list. There is a commitment to deliver 17,000 homes across all schemes in 2016 and it is absolutely vital that Local Authorities begin to build and deliver social housing on the scale required. While the current Government has made cash available, the mechanisms are not in place to turn the investment into actual homes. We need creative ways of solving this problem – this is about getting people into homes as quickly as possible. Local authorities could partner with Housing Associations to turn properties around far more quickly.”

“It is essential that that the next Government believes that everyone is entitled to a safe and secure place to call home – and commits to this through the full delivery of existing social housing commitments, with a renewed emphasis on the build and acquisition of social housing units. Our organisations are working hard to achieve an end to long term homelessness but we need political will and commitment to ensure that it happens.”

 

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