The country is on the brink of record levels of homelessness in the coming weeks, Simon Communities of Ireland has warned.
More people will be pushed into homelessness through the fall as affordable housing plummets to an all-time low.
A forthcoming report shows a sharp drop in the number of affordable rental properties across the country compared to this time last year.
The quarterly edition of the Simon Community Excluded The report shows that a total of 657 apartments were rented at any price in the 16 major cities last month, down 70 percent from the same month last year.
The results are “strong” and “very worrying,” said Wayne Stanley, head of policy at Simon Communities of Ireland.
Before the start of the report this week, he said Sunday independent how homelessness is now affecting a larger number of workers.
“This real structural tightening of the private rental market is going to lead to more homelessness and that’s really, really worrying. Since we started collecting numbers in 2014, there was a record number of homeless people in October 2019, with over 10,500 people. At the current rate, that number will be surpassed in the next two months,” Stanley said.
The latest homeless numbers show there were 10,325 people in emergency shelters nationwide in May, including 7,297 adults and 3,028 children.
The quarterly snapshot study — across three random days of data collection in June — shows that just 37 properties were available under the Housing Benefit Scheme (HAP) in four household types — 869 fewer properties than in June last year.
The four household types are: single; couples; couple/one parent plus one child; Married couple/one parent plus two children.
Families with children who need HAP are particularly at risk.
As of June 2021, not a single property across the country has been identified within HAP limits for parents with one child under HAP’s standard rate – and only 12 were available under the discretionary rate (where local authorities have the option to pay more) .
For a couple or one parent with two children, only 20 rental properties were available at freely selectable HAP rates in the 16 areas examined in the study; 12 of these overlapped with the properties available to one-child families. No objects were available under standard tariffs.
According to the report, the offer is mostly concentrated in Dublin. At the time of the study, almost 70 per cent (or 458) of all unique properties available to rent at any price were found in the city of Dublin. Outside Dublin, properties available for rent within the HAP limits have been worryingly low.
Nine of the 16 study areas had no properties available for rent in any household category within the standard or optional HAP boundaries. These were Cork City Centre, Dublin City Centre, Galway City Centre, Galway Suburbs, Co Leitrim, Limerick Suburbs, Limerick City Centre, City of Sligo and Portlaoise.
At the time of the study, local authorities in Dublin could pay up to 50 per cent more than the currently set HAP rates – while other local authorities could pay up to a fifth more. The Housing Secretary signed a measure on Friday allowing local authorities outside Dublin to pay 35 per cent above HAP base rates at their discretion.
But the Simon report showed that even if the increased discretion had existed at the time the study was conducted, only five other features would have been available within the HAP tariffs.
Overall, the proportion of HAP properties available for rent in Ireland has fallen dramatically.
Just 5.6 percent of homes in June 2022 were affordable under HAP — down from 11 percent last March and last December.
Mr. Stanley said the trajectory of homelessness follows a known pattern.
He said: “People lose their accommodation in the private rental sector, then they move in with family or friends hoping things will get better, and eventually that situation becomes unsustainable over time due to overcrowding or other factors.”
He said the country’s “hidden homelessness” problem meant the situation was worse than official figures suggested.
“International research suggests that we only capture a third of the people affected by structural homelessness,” Stanley said.
“This isn’t to try to make the number of homeless people worse – 10,000 homeless is huge – but that’s the situation and tightening of the rental market and affordability means many people are spending time in ‘hidden homelessness’. ”
Mr Stanley said the country needed “a short-term silver bullet”.
“We have a high vacancy rate. The census showed 166,000 vacant properties. But if we could capture just 5,000 units of that 166,000 this year and another 5,000 next year, that would mean we could start making some serious “pushes” while we wait for municipal housing to become large-scale go into operation,” he said.
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