Households in rented accommodation receiving subsidies most at risk of poverty

‘At risk of poverty’ in 2020 meant living on or below €273.17 per week, says report

Households in the private-rented sector, dependent on subsidies such as the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), are at greatest risk of being “driven into poverty” by housing costs, a report published on Monday warns.

Compiled by Social Justice Ireland (SJI) the report, Housing and Poverty 2022, says the proportion of people nationally who are at risk of poverty is 13.2 per cent, but when housing costs are included the proportion increases to 19 per cent.

Drawing on recently published data from the Central Statistics Office, SJI notes that to be deemed "at risk of poverty" during 2020 meant living on or below 60 per cent of the median income, or €273.17 per week. It says those in rented accommodation are at greatest risk of seeing their income fall below this because of housing costs.

It says 27.6 per cent of these households have incomes below €273.17 a week before they pay rent, but 44.7 per cent do after rent is paid.


However, the increase in poverty risk is even more severe for households in private rented properties subsidised by the State.

Private-rented sector

According to the CSO, 22.7 per cent of people living in subsidised rented accommodation were living below the poverty line before rent was factored in.

“Once rent has been taken into account, the proportion of subsidised households living in poverty increases to 55.9 per cent.”

This is particularly important to note as the Department of Housing plans to increase its reliance on the private-rented sector, through subsidies like HAP, the Rental Assistance Scheme (RAS) and rent supplement, to meet social housing needs it says.

It “means that more households will be driven into poverty to cover basic housing costs, rather than being provided with the necessary basics”, says SJI.

These data “show the deep inequalities experienced by people living in the private rented sector generally, but clearly demonstrates that private rented subsidies are not the solution”.

In addition, subsidies like HAP are “a considerable cost to the Exchequer, with up to €1 billion being spent on housing supplements per annum”.

The think tank calls on Government to “to emulate our European peers” and significantly increase provision of State-financed and State-owned “real social housing”.

Among its recommendations are that Government set a target of 20 per cent of all housing stock to be State-built and owned social housing; establish a Commission on Housing and extend provision of “Housing First” scheme to families in emergency accommodation.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times