More than 100,000 housing queries for Citizens Information Board last year
‘Significant proportion of our clients ... struggle to meet rising housing costs on limited means’
Forward planning is vital if the housing needs of an aging population are to be met close to amenities and transport services. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Housing queries received by Citizens Information Board (CIB) services surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time last year as people fought to secure homes.
In its pre-budget submission, the CIB - which funds a number of services including the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) - said the number of housing related questions from members of the public had risen by 15 per cent in 2017 when compared with the previous year.
Over half related to local authority and social housing while 20 per cent were to do with private rented accommodation. Mortgage repayments continue to be a source of concern too.
“During the past ten years, the scale and pace of changes in the Irish housing landscape has been striking and has been acutely felt by a significant proportion of our clients who struggle to meet rising housing costs on limited means,” the CIB document, published on Tuesday, states.
The housing assistance payment scheme (Hap), which aims to support people in private rented accommodation, is a key area of concern for those who contact support services.
In particular, concerns relate to the limited number of homes available to Hap tenants; the standards of accommodation; the lack of clarity regarding how taking up the Hap scheme might affect people’s place on the social housing list; and the reluctance on the part of some landlords to participate in the scheme.
In its pre-budget submission, the CIB says measures should be taken to further incentivise property owners and to publicise the benefits of accepting Hap tenants, as well as further enforcing property standards.
More than 770,000 calls
The various services run by the CIB - including the Citizens Information Services, the Citizens Information Phone Service and the National Advocacy Service for people with disabilities - received more than 770,000 calls in 2017.
“These services are well placed to have a clear understanding of the problems that people experience when trying to access social and public services,” the document notes.
Of the more than one million queries dealt with, 45 per cent related to various social welfare issues, notably in the areas of disability, illness and carers (over 110,000), benefits for families and children (75,000) and extra social welfare benefits (73,000).
There were about 54,000 queries regarding pension entitlements, indicating a lack of general knowledge in the area “and a good degree of confusion” among those soon to retire.
Issues affecting those with disabilities and older people also feature prominently, particularly in relation to home supports.
The CIB has called for additional budget resources for measure that address issues of disability, illness, carers and working family payments.
It has also cited the need for an increase in the rate of fuel allowance and the introduction of a cold weather payment scheme, as well as a new homecare scheme.
The report says the demographic profile of Mabs clients has remained relatively stable over recent years but the number of mortgaged clients “has steadily increased since the recession began”, from 36 per cent at the end of 2009 to 45 per cent this year.
“A significant cohort of clients of Mabs are burdened with unsustainable legacy debts and remain excluded from access to affordable credit and are consequently locked out from the wider economic recovery,” it said, and it asked the Government to consider the issue of financial inclusion.