Sharp drop in rental properties available within Hap limits - study

ESRI report highlights ‘striking’ differences in lone parent social housing rents

The number of properties in the private rental market affordable for people receiving financial support from the State has fallen dramatically in recent years, according to a new report.

The report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), published on Thursday, charts a sharp drop in the number of rental properties available within limits of the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), a State support paid to cover rental costs in the private market.

In the region overseen by Dublin City Council the number of one-bed homes available to rent within maximum Hap limits fell by more than half between 2017 and 2020, down to less than one in ten homes in the private market.

While about half of one-bed rental properties were within upper Hap limits in most parts of the country in 2017, that fell to closer to a quarter of properties three years later, the report found.

Nine out of ten one-bed rental properties were within Hap limits in Galway County Council in 2017, which fell to just more than half of available properties in 2020.

Cork city saw the number of one-bed rental properties within reach of Hap tenants drop from 27 to 13 per cent by 2020.

Fourteen of the 31 local authorities saw the number of two-bed rental properties affordable for Hap tenants drop by 50 per cent over the same four year period.

More than half of two-bed properties were available to rent within maximum Hap limits in 2017, which had dropped to less than one in five rental homes by 2020, the report said.

Hap tenants unable to find rental housing within the support payment limits in many cases would have to make extra top-up payments to landlords to secure accommodation.

Rent

The report also found there were “striking” differences in the amount of rent some lone parents in social housing paid to local authorities.

In Co Louth, a lone parent with two children and an annual income of €25,000 paid the council €252 a month in rent, while in neighbouring Co Meath, the same family would pay the council €450 a month in rent.

The rate of local authority rent did not appear to be linked to wider prices in the private market, the report found, with lone parents in the regions overseen by Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council paying among the lowest rents at all less than €300 a month.

Three local authorities would charge the report’s sample lone parent more than €400 a month, Meath County Council (€450), Wexford County Council (€445), Longford County Council (€428) and Galway County Council (€407).

The report said there was a “huge degree of variation” in the cost of monthly social housing rents for “otherwise identical families”.

It said it was “difficult to find a coherent justification or rationale for the pattern of differences”, with rates of rent “varying significantly across local authorities in anomalous ways”.