Sunday 25 September 2016

Families with just one income are struggling to rent affordable homes

Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30

Housing Agency chairman Conor Skehan
Housing Agency chairman Conor Skehan

Households with just one income are finding it increasingly difficult to rent an affordable home, the Housing Agency has warned.

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It says a three-tier housing market is emerging, with Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare the most expensive.

The cheapest are in Roscommon, Cavan, Leitrim and Longford, while the final tier is made up of counties, including Kilkenny, Kerry and Clare.

The 'Outlook for 2015-2017' report says that 21,000 homes a year are needed just to meet market demand out to 2018.

But delivery will be a "slow process", chairman Conor Skehan said, in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

"We have to realise that supply isn't just about building. Freeing up 2,000 voids (empty units) would make up 10pc of the annual demand," he said.

"Houses are not like growing carrots. It's a slow fix, the opposite of what got us into trouble the last time. It's about regulation, standards, planning and understanding house types. 2016 is a perfectly acceptable near-term horizon. This is a slow fix. We're doing it right this time."

Last year, just over 11,000 homes were constructed, less than the 15,000 required to meet market demand. The number built this year has risen, but is still less than what is required.

The Housing Agency also says:

- The population is expected to grow by 170,000 people between 2011 and 2018.

- Almost 38,000 homes are needed in Dublin - almost 14,000 in Dublin city, more than 9,500 in Fingal, 3,300 in Dún Laoghaire and just under 9,000 in south Dublin.

- There is capacity for 46,000 units in Dublin in the short-term, with planning permission in place for 18,000.

- Residential property transactions are up 28pc in 2014, the third year in a row of increased sales.

- Outside of Dublin, demand is highest in the mid-east with almost 12,000 units required. This falls to just under 4,000 in the midlands and south-east, the areas of least demand.

Reality

But many of the homes required will be smaller than what was built at the height of the boom. This is because the average household size has dropped from 3.04 people in 2002, to 2.77 today. It is projected to fall to 2.67 by 2018.

"We're not talking about tiny houses," Mr Skehan added. "We're talking about houses with fewer bedrooms. In the US and UK, one-third of all housing units have one person. We have to encompass that reality."

The agency says that rental costs have risen by 6.9pc nationally, and are up 9.6pc in Dublin and 5.3pc outside the capital. While rents are affordable for two-earner couples on average incomes, for those living in the eastern region, and in particular Dublin, and families with just one income, "affordability remains an issue".

Housing Minister Paudie Coffey said that new policies were coming on stream to speed up delivery of units. They included a reduction in development levies, developer finance being made available and a vacant site tax.

Irish Independent

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