Focus Ireland calls for more rights for vulnerable tenants at Oireachtas Committee on Housing

Charity warns that rising rents & spiralling cost of living has left thousands at a tipping point between home & homelessness

Focus Ireland believes that successive Governments have consistently got the balance wrong between the rights of tenants and landlords, the charity has stated at today’s Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

The charity also said the failure to extend the eviction embargo along with rising rents and the increased cost of living is also resulting in rising homelessness.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “Our staff are seeing more families & individuals facing eviction from Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) tenancies due to soaring rents. Rents have risen but HAP payments have not. Tenants must pay the rent shortfall themselves – on top of the share of rent they already pay. HAP tenants need the same protections as people in secure social housing, such as earlier warnings on arrears and more time to resolve the situation when they find themselves in arrears.”

HAP levels were last adjusted in 2016, and the RTB (Residential Tenancy Board) rent index has risen by 30% since then (from €1,060 to €1,397). HAP tenants attempt to close this gap from their already inadequate income from employment or social welfare.
Recent work by Focus Ireland has shown that some Homeless HAP tenants are paying up to €650 per month top-up to their landlords, with the minimum reported as 180/month and an average of €350/month.

The charity welcomed the Government’s commitment to end homelessness by 2030 made in its ‘Housing For All’ strategy and said that the next steps need to be to set out in a series of milestones to reach this target.

Speaking at the Committee Mike Allen said: “Before Christmas, we sent all TD’s and Senators a booklet of drawings by children who are homeless with their families and who we support. The booklet also contained a clear message imploring you to ensure that ending child homelessness becomes one of our first milestones. We strongly recommend that the next report on Homelessness from this Committee should seek to identify the milestones required to end homelessness by 2030, and how they are to be reached.

After continued declines in the first quarter of 2021, there were 1,077 families homeless at the end of 2021, 107 (10%) more than a year earlier. Over the past 6 months has been that the number of children experiencing homelessness is increasing at a faster rate than adult homelessness (20% increase in the number of children experiencing homelessness compared with 12% for adults).

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