Urgent action needed to tackle rent increases, charity says

Simon Communities calls for commitment to end long-term homelessness to be fulfilled

Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Urgent action is needed to tackle rent prices in the private sector to alleviate the worsening problem of homelessness, a national charity said.

Publishing its pre-Budget submission, the Simon Communities said the October Budget was a critical one for the Government.

“It is a budget where the Government must act now on their commitment to end long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough. We are calling for immediate action on four fronts — homeless prevention and early intervention; rapid rehousing using a housing first approach; access to affordable housing; and adequate support for people once in housing,” national spokeswoman Niamh Randall said.

“The Simon Communities see the devastating impact of rising rents and reduced housing supply everyday — people on low incomes and those in receipt of rent supplement can no longer afford rental payments.

“Private rented supply is at the lowest level in a decade. Rent supplement levels must be increased, along with the introduction of rent certainty measures for tenants. Rent supplement levels have remained unchanged since June 2013, yet in the following two years, prices in the private rented sector increased by 20.3 per cent.”

Ms Randall said that to prevent more people from becoming homeless, the large rent increases that people have had to deal with needed to be addressed.

“ People who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads are being excluded from the private rented sector and prevented from competing in the open market in a fair manner.

“There are 90,000 people on the social housing waiting list and Government social housing commitments, if on target, will only meet the housing needs of 17 per cent of them. For the State to say to people that there is no prospect of getting a home any time soon is just not good enough. People need homes now and people need action now.”

Ms Randall said emergency accommodation was not the answer to homelessness.

“It is a temporary response. People are currently ending up staying in shelters for far too long. This needs to change. Recent cutbacks to funding for housing support, for health services, probation and social protection services, education and training services etc., have all contributed to the current crisis.”

“We must support people to stay in the homes that they have and provide homes for those stuck in emergency accommodation. This requires access to affordable housing, to social protection supports and other support services e.g. healthcare, mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment etc.”

She said the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Social Protection, the HSE, and the Department of Finance all had a vital role to play.

There are currently 3,285 adults in emergency homeless accommodation nationally, including 657 families and 1,383 children.

As part of its annual Simon Week, the charity is running a ‘Homeless Forecast Campaign’. It is urging members of the public to sign a letter to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste urging them to bring the homeless and housing crisis to the top of the Cabinet’s agenda.