‘Unscrupulous landlords’ blamed for worst homeless crisis in ‘living memory’

Dublin needs one block of 200 student beds every month for the next 10 years – economist

Soaring rental prices and "unscrupulous landlords" have led to the worst homeless crisis "in living memory", according to homelessness charity Focus Ireland.

With recent figures indicating that 90 per cent of rental accommodation in the State is not affordable to most, people are being "trapped in homelessness" without any avenue of escape, Focus Ireland advocacy manager Roughan Mac Namara warned on Tuesday.

"There is a need for swift action, to take unpopular decisions to help keep families in their homes," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland, adding that unscrupulous landlords were bypassing the four per cent cap in rent pressure zones. He also underlined the urgent need to provide housing for the thousands of homeless children across Ireland.

Mr Mac Namara’s comments follow the news that rents have increased by almost 12 per cent year-on-year to June, with average rents across the country reaching a new all-time high. The latest data from property website daft.ie shows rents are rising in every county across Ireland, with the average national rent up by 11.8 per cent, or €122 a month, in the year to June 2017.


Ronan Lyons, economist at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, said a solution to the housing crisis would not be found if the Government continues to ignore the supply problem.

Need for new homes

“Every year there is a need for 18,000 new dwellings. That’s the kind of scale needed,” he said. He added that the cost of building in Ireland, which is higher than in other countries, needed to be examined and addressed.

"I'm not sure that the various levels of government fully understand the scale of need. Dublin needs one block of 200-300 student beds every month for the next 10 years, but already Dublin City Council is pushing back. The more you have the cheaper it will be."

Meanwhile, Housing charity Threshold is calling for the introduction of a mandatory rent register under which landlords would have to state the rent paid by the last tenant in their property.

“A measure such as an RTB-managed rent register, recording every change of rent, would benefit all, as it would hold landlords to account and arm tenants with the details they need to make an informed choice,” said chair of Threshold, Dr Aideen Hayden. “Many tenants are desperate, and those who can afford the asking rent are prepared to pay without many questions, to get a roof over their heads. With such a shortage of supply, if legislation is not enforced, rents can only but go up in the face of such desperation, and this is a very poor vista for low- and middle-income earners.”

The housing charity also highlighted the affect of the housing shortage on students arriving in cities for the new academic year, warning that these young people were in the same position as low income families in the search for affordable housing.

Homeless charity Cope Galway underlined the urgent need to bring vacant properties back into use and provide additional social housing as homeless services struggle to address the “unprecedented crisis” in the city.

“At a time of shortage it is vital that housing stock in the city is utilised to the fullest extent possible and measures incentivising property owners to put vacant units into use and taxes to penalise them for not doing so are required,” said Martin O’Connor from Cope Galway.

“This Daft.ie rental report, which highlights the chronic shortage of supply and ever increasing rent levels in Galway, is further proof, if proof were needed, that the private rental market is in serious difficulty and that those most negatively impacted on are families and individuals who cannot afford the rents being asked for.”

The Residential Landlords Association of Ireland (RLAI) defended landlords, saying most people in rental accommodation were "cushioned". Speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke, RLAI spokesman Fintan McNamara said most landlords were not raising the rents for "good tenants". He called for a review of rent control and said new letting landlords should be able to charge market rates.

Also speaking on RTÉ, Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger warned that people were becoming homeless on the basis of less than one month’s arrears.

The Government should be building affordable housing, using public land, Nama land and refurbishing empty units, while proceeds of the sale of AIB should have been used to build homes not write off debt, said Ms Coppinger.

She added that the Government, Fianna Fáil and Labour had an aversion to local authority home building. "That's the only way you can supply people on lower incomes with affordable homes. It's the only way to resolve the housing crisis."