herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Rising rents have created new legion of house-less families as market freezes them out

Portrait of young couple in front of one-family house in modern residential area. Agent giving keys to woman and welcoming family to their new home
Portrait of young couple in front of one-family house in modern residential area. Agent giving keys to woman and welcoming family to their new home

Rising renting costs have contributed to an "unprecedented level" of homelessness, with over 600 families in Dublin at risk of spending Christmas on the streets.

A hike in prices has forced many into temporary accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs. Of the 738 families currently living in emergency accommodation, 637 of those are in Dublin.

For those on rent supplement, finding affordable accommodation poses a particular challenge.

According to figures from the Private Residential Tenancies Board, households looking to rent a three-bedroom semi-detached house can expect to pay up to €1,580.79 a month for a place in Stillorgan. Leopardstown properties reach a similar figure, at €1,505.47 on average.

Unprecedented

But those renting in Balbriggan are likely to be paying in the region of €933.57 per month.

Tony Geoghegan, chair of the Dublin Homeless Network and chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland, said that high rates will make it difficult to take people out of homelessness and many families are finding themselves without access to a place to stay as a result.

"The biggest exit traditionally from homelessness was to the private rented sector but that has closed down completely," he said.

While the Government's pledge to introduce modular homes has been welcomed by the Dublin Homeless Network, Mr Geoghegan said it should form one part of a series of measures.

"We were pleased with the modular homes but disappointed that rent regulation and rent certainty and the cap on rents was not included in the budget, but we are still hopeful that these will be addressed by the Minister.

"Today there are 3,000 people and 1,000 children living in emergency accommodation, which is unprecedented. We've never had that level of people before.

"It is commonplace now that a family might be staying at a hotel in Blanchardstown and bringing their kids to schools in Finglas each morning and trying to ferry them across town.

"They don't have the facilities to cook in hotels or for the children to do homework.

"They are being removed from the area they were previously living in because the rent continues to increase and landlords haven't been taking rent allowance.

"The drying out of housing in the market has exacerbated the problem more and more.

"The modular homes should be part of a bigger suite of moves, like addressing rent certainty, which should be reviewed in line with the consumer price index.

"We are supportive of the provision of modular homes but not in isolation. This is an unprecedented level of homelessness.

"With some modular homes, with procurement, planning and tendering, it could take about two years.

"The modular homes would certainly make families and children better off and give them a level of normality. When parents and children are staying in one room in a B&B, that is impossible really.

"In the longer term, they need to be building homes."

Vice chair of the Dublin Homeless Network and chief executive of the Dublin Simon Community, Sam McGuinness, raised concern about where families will live as Christmas approaches.

"Over Christmas, some hotels will close," he said.

"This will cause more confusion and pressure. We are exhausted and exacerbated.

"A few months back, we called it a humanitarian crisis but calling it a crisis doesn't make any difference, because Minister Kelly and Minister Noonan are still trying to figure out the best solution.

"The number of people in emergency accommodation is just getting bigger.

"People on rent supplement are totally out of the market because of their competitiveness and in a lot of cases, they are not encouraged to rent," Mr McGuinness said.

"We need to prevent people losing their homes. There is an issue with rent and that is not just rent supplement, there are people coming to Dublin with new jobs and students as well.

"We need to be securing premises. There are figures that 30,000 people entered Dublin in the last year and where are they all going to live?

"There are new jobs being announced all the time by multinationals and I'm sure it's of concern to them too."

Mr McGuinness said "surely there is more that can be done" in addition to creating modular homes.

"We were hoping for 500 modular units but there will only be 22 made available before Christmas. We are disappointed and dismayed with the speed at which this is being addressed," he said.

"The modular homes need the support infrastructure, they need to be in the right place. It's not clear that it's being done well. It's the smallest possible solution that can be made.

Attract

"We need to attract more modular homes and the Minister needs to provide the funds and provide a fast-track procurement process from the Department of the Environment.

"Families have been staying so long in hotels and B&Bs that they will need help to pull all the pieces together. They will also have to be in a similar neighbourhood where their children can be brought to school.

"We don't know the untold effects this has on children. What has it done to their self-esteem?

"They go into school and they are deemed to be homeless. Maybe in the future there will be other inquiries into how this all happened."

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