People on housing assistance "locked out" of rental market

Nine out of ten rental properties are beyond the reach of people dependent on state housing benefits.

The shocking new figure has been included in a new report from the Simon Community.

The seventh ‘Locked Out of the Market’ study released this morning has found that the overall number of rental properties on the market has dropped significantly.

The number of properties available to people on Rent Supplement or the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) meanwhile, has now dropped to 9%.

The report warns that the once-off increase in state housing benefits introduced last year provided only a brief respite – and has failed to keep the payments in line with spiralling rents.

The study, carried out over three days at the beginning of August, found just 630 properties available to rent in eleven locations - representing a fall of 45% on May 2015.

Simon Communities spokesperson Niamh Randall said the plight of the homeless now needs to be a top priority for the government:

“The Simon Communities are calling for a national homeless sub-strategy to expand on existing Rebuilding Ireland commitments,” she said.

She said the strategy should have a particular focus on prevention, “to keep people in the homes that they have.”

She also called on the government to implement the ‘Housing First’ strategy nationally. The Housing First model focuses on moving homeless people into long-term accommodation immediately rather than moving individuals through different levels of emergency housing.

The model allows for personal support sand services to be guilt around the needs of the individual after they have been housed.

Ms Randall said the model is “the most effective way of ending homelessness and addressing complex and multiple needs.”

Homeless crisis

Rents increased nationally by 13.4% in the year to March 2017 according to Daft.ie.

The latest government housing figures revealed that there were almost 8,000 people in emergency accommodation last month - including nearly 3,000 children.

Nearly half of the people recorded as homeless were under the age of 24.

The figures were met with dismay by a range of homeless and children's charities with long-time campaigner Fr Peter McVerry urging the Taoiseach to call a national emergency to deal with the crisis.

Locked out

Ms Randall said people in emergency accommodation are “locked out of the private rented market because rents are too high and supply is too low.”

“The private rented sector is not capable of delivering the housing needed to respond given the sheer scale of this housing and homeless crisis,” she said.

“The gap between housing benefit payments and market rents is too wide for people who are struggling, people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“The sustainable long-term solution to ending the current crisis is to build more social and affordable housing.”

She warned that the Rebuilding Ireland strategy is moving “far too slowly” and called for a critical assessment of the targets that have not been met since the plan was first published in July 2016.

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