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Media Releases 2016

Simon Communities welcome attempts to limit rents in Dublin and Cork but express concern about the rest of the country

The housing and homeless charity respond to new Strategy for the Rental Sector

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Simon Communities in Ireland have welcomed the Strategy for the Rental Sector released today saying that it represents a seismic shift in policy in terms of attempting to limit rent increases. The housing and homelessness charity particularly welcomed rent predictability limits in Cork and Dublin but said that they are concerned about the rest of the country. They said that many of the people becoming homeless today are coming from the private rental sector and that preventing further homelessness by keeping people in the homes they already have is vital. In addition, ensuring that Rent Supplement/Housing Assistance Payment are kept in line with market rents is critical to keeping people in their homes. 

Rents
Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities responding on measures on rents said:

‘Rent predictability in Dublin and Cork are very much welcomed and the Minister’s determination to limit rents in these areas must be acknowledged. However rents have been increasing continuously right around the country. Quarter 3 2016 average rent increases included 13.2% in Limerick, 15.8% in Meath, 13.6% in Portlaoise, 13.4% in Kildare, 15.2% in Louth and our concern is rents will continue to increase at these rates placing people under huge pressure and pushing some people out of their homes. Having to wait until rents inflate even further before these areas can be designated ‘rent pressure zones’ will do little to prevent further homelessness outside of Cork and Dublin. In addition, although rent increases in the ‘pressure zones’ will be limited by up to 4% per annum, this amounts to a potential increase of 12% over the three years up to 2019 which would look like an average rent of €1,764 in Dublin City Centre (an increase of almost €200 per month) and €1,217 in Cork city centre (an increase of €130 per month)[1]. Rents have already increased significantly in these areas over the last few years. Rent stability measure introduced in November 2014 will no longer apply within ‘pressure zones’ but will apply outside these areas until 2019 and our concern is that this is skewing the market as landlords are factoring in the two year rent review.’ 

‘The Simon Communities have particular concern for the people we work with who are often at the lower end of the market, many of whom are dependent on Rent Supplement/Housing Assistance Payment. These state payments must keep pace with the market rents if people are to compete in the open market and remain in their homes. In the current designated ‘rent pressure zones’ specifically where rents will increase by up to 4% each year for the next three years it would make sense to ensure that RS/HAP is increased by the same amount so those families and households can compete with everyone else depending on the rental market. People renting their homes must have the security of knowing that their rents are in line with real market rates.’

Security of Tenure
Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities in response to measures addressing security of tenure said:

‘The acknowledgment that many tenants now want and need longer term tenancies is very welcome. This move towards indefinite leasing will mean that people can make their long term homes in the private rental not just as a stepping stone towards buying a home or social housing. However this needs to happen quickly as the one fifth of people living in rented homes cannot wait any longer for more security. The increase from 4 to 6 year tenancy cycles is welcome but the crux of the issue is not addressed in terms of protection from tenancy termination through sale of property (section 34). Landlords have been and are a critical part of the solution to the current crisis but it is also critical that incentives offered to landlords to provide longer term leases should have conditionality attached e.g. enhanced security of tenure. The introduction of tenancy in-situ requirements in cases of multiple units in a single development being sold at the same time is positive but does not offer protection to a tenant whose home is a single unit that is being sold off.’

Supply
Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities in response to measures to stimulate private rented supply said:

‘We welcome measures to support supply by encouraging new investment and bringing unused capacity to the market, for example, kick-starting supply in ‘rent pressure zones’ using publicly owned land to leverage land value for the delivery of rental units targeting middle income households. This should not be limited to the ‘pressure zones’ and should include long term tenancy options. The cost rental model has already been promised so we need to see this come to fruition. Cost rental housing can ensure stable and affordable tenancies for low and intermediate income families, insulating tenants from rising market rents that increase as the price of property rises. ‘Build-to-Rent’ is positive we would like to see social rental/housing developer contributions similar to current Part V developer contributions (10%). Commitments to accelerate the national roll-out of the ‘Repair and Leasing’ and ‘Buy and Renew’ schemes are positive but need to be more ambitious in terms of targets with almost 200, 000 empty homes around the country.’

Quality Standards
Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities in response to measures to address quality standards said:

‘The introduction of new quality standards is very much needed – we welcome in particular the increase in inspections of 25% by 2021 and the consolidation of local authority inspection functions into a national or regional set of arrangements, enforcement is key to ensure implementation. It is important that new standards include a focus on minimum health standards, control of damp and energy efficiency. These are often issues for the people we work with, at the lower end of the sector, who often put up with unacceptable living conditions because they are afraid they will lose the roof over their heads.’

The Simon Communities deliver support and service to over 7,500 people and families who experience or are at risk of homelessness on an annual basis. 

For media queries and interview requests 
Helen McCormack
Tel: 01 671 1606/ 085 806 5141 
E:  communications@simoncommunity.com
 
Homelessness - the numbers 
• During one week in October 2016 (latest available figures), there were 6,847 men, women and children in emergency accommodation across the country; a 26 % increase from the same week in October 2015. This included 2,794 adults with no dependents in their care and 1,178 families made up of 1,583 adults and 2,470 children. (DECLG, October 2016).
• During one night in April 2016, there were 171 people without a place to sleep in Dublin City.  This included 102 people sleeping rough and 69 people sheltering at the Nite Café.  Unfortunately, Dublin is the only area where an official rough sleeper count takes place, making it difficult to get a countrywide rough sleeping picture. (DRHE 2015) Figures from Cork Simon Community indicate that rough sleeping in Cork City increased nine-fold in four years (2011-2015).
• Locked Out of the Market III (Simon Communities Study) found that 95% of rental properties are beyond the reach for those in receipt of state housing support. Of all the properties available to rent in the eleven regions studied, only one was available for a single person (Jan 2016) see http://www.simon.ie/Publications/Research.aspx

About Simon Communities
The Simon Communities in Ireland are a network of eight regionally based independent Simon Communities based in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East that share common values and ethos in tackling all forms of homelessness throughout Ireland, supported by a National Office. The Simon Communities have been providing services in Ireland for over 40 years.  The Simon Communities deliver support and service to over 7,500 individuals and families throughout Ireland who experience – or are at risk of – homelessness every year. Whatever the issue, for as long as we are needed, Simon’s door is always open. For more information please log on to www.simon.ie

Services range from
• Housing provision, tenancy sustainment & settlement services, housing advice & information services helping people to make the move out of homelessness & working with households at risk;
• Specialist health & treatment services addressing some of the issues which may have contributed to homeless occurring or may be a consequence;
• Emergency accommodation & support providing people with a place of welcome, warmth & safety;
• Soup runs & rough sleeper teams who are often the first point of contact for people sleeping rough.  



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