Housing figures expose ‘devastating’ scale of crisis, say charities

Number of households paying €300 per week in rent has ‘shot up’

Chief executive of Barnardos Fergus Finlay said people living in overcrowded situations were all too often missing from the debate about the housing crisis. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Chief executive of Barnardos Fergus Finlay said people living in overcrowded situations were all too often missing from the debate about the housing crisis. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

The “devastating” scale of the State’s housing crisis has been exposed by new figures, charities in the homelessness sector said on Thursday.

Focus Ireland said the 2016 census figures – published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) – also delivered the “bleak reality” for those renting their homes, as it showed the number of households paying at least €300 to private landlords each week had “shot up” by 166 per cent to 48,933.

The Simon Communities said the report provided “much-needed insight into the extent of the housing and homelessness crisis and what the solutions might be”.

It noted one in 10 people is living in accommodation of less than one room per person, a rise of 28 per cent since the 2011 census.

“This shows what the Simon Communities are seeing all around the country; people are living in overcrowded accommodation because they do not have access to decent and affordable housing.

“In the short term, focusing on some of the 183,000 empty homes identified offers significant opportunities to provide permanent homes for those who need them urgently,” national spokeswoman Niamh Randall said.

Roughan Mac Namara of Focus Ireland criticised what he called a “series of halfway-house policies” by successive governments.

“For instance, there are some very positive policies being rolled out such as the vacant homes initiative (and the commitment to 47,000 social houses), but they fall short because they try to keep all sides happy and are not tough enough to drive the urgent change often required,” he said.

Overcrowded

Chief executive of Barnardos Fergus Finlay said people living in overcrowded situations were all too often missing from the debate about the housing crisis.

“These figures show just how prevalent overcrowding has become. Many of these people are the ‘hidden homeless’; those thousands of families in Ireland who are living in substandard, overcrowded or unsafe accommodation, unable to move or demand better accommodation because they have no other options.

“These people do not even show up in the homeless figures. But their experiences can be just as traumatic,” he said.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in housing studies and urban economics at Dublin Institute of Technology, said the figure of 20.8 per cent for the number of people renting wasn’t as high as he had expected, given the increase of 176,000 in population.

He suspected there was a degree to which some households might be under-reporting their overcrowding situation.

“Mostly when you get a population increase, usually it’s accounted for by people moving into a country, into accommodation in the private rental sector,” he said. “I suspect what has happened is they are accommodating themselves in the private rental sector but there are more of them in every unit.”

Dr Sirr said the fact that only 8,800 houses had been added to the housing stock meant there was only one new house created for every seven new households.

“That is not sustainable,” he said.