Landlords back out of long-term social housing rental

Just six new Rental Accommodation Scheme units provided in Dublin city this year

Dublin City Council is dealing with 90 requests from landlords who want to abandon the social housing scheme. Photograph: Frank Miller

Dublin City Council is dealing with 90 requests from landlords who want to abandon the social housing scheme. Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, May 22, 2014, 01:00

Only six homes have become available to Dublin City Council this year under a scheme designed to encourage private landlords to make their properties available for social housing on a long-term basis.

Almost three times as many landlords removed their flats and houses from the scheme, which was introduced to provide long-term tenancies for people on the social housing waiting list. Ninety more landlords have given the council notice that they want to quit the scheme.

The rental accommodation scheme (RAS) was set up in 2004 to offset the lack of social housing construction. Under the scheme local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide housing for people who have been on the waiting list for more than 18 months, and pay rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.

Four-year minimum Dublin City Council requires landlords to sign up to the scheme for a minimum of four years to ensure security of tenure for people who would in the past have been allocated council housing.

The city council administers just over 1,500 RAS tenancies but is currently dealing with 90 requests from landlords who want to abandon the scheme, with almost no new property owners willing to sign over their flats or houses.

In 2011 landlords provided 226 properties under the scheme in Dublin. Of these, 127 went to people seeking housing. The remaining 99 houses and flats already had tenants. That year 50 landlords took their properties out of the scheme.

In 2012, a similar number of RAS units were provided, but fewer were for new tenants – just 77, while 144 related to RAS contracts for tenants in situ. That year 95 landlords left the scheme.

Last year saw a dramatic drop, with the number of RAS agreements signed halving. Just 32 tenants received new homes under the scheme and 85 agreements were signed for existing tenants, bringing the total number of contracts to 117. However, 101 landlords left the scheme.

From the beginning of this year up to last week, just six new tenancies had been secured through the scheme, 13 RAS contracts were signed for existing tenants and 17 properties were taken back by their owners .

Not willing Fine Gael councillor Naoise Ó Muirí said that even though rent was guaranteed by the council, landlords were not willing to sign long-term contracts for social housing tenants.

“Supply of rented property is so scarce that relying on the private rented market in this way just will not work.”

Wholesale exit At 1,500 current tenancies. the number of homes provided through the scheme introduced 10 years ago was “minuscule” Mr O’Muirí said. He said he expected a “wholesale exit” of the scheme by landlords, leaving more tenants at risk of homelessness.

“Local government is going to have to take a very serious look at getting involved on the supply side of housing in tandem with central Government, whether through direct commissioning or through scaling up to a much greater involvement with capable voluntary housing bodies.”