Calls for help with housing up by 25pc in one year
SPIRALLING rents and the Government's failure to substantially increase rent allowances are driving thousands of Irish families towards homelessness.
Housing charity Focus Ireland, said that it has recorded a 25pc hike in the number of people seeking their help over the past 12 months.
In 2012, 8,000 individuals and families contacted Focus Ireland over homelessness fears - but that figure soared to 10,000 people last year.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the number will climb even higher this year.
The charity said the crisis has been triggered by an escalating upward spiral in rents within the private sector.
In Dublin, rents have gone up by close to 10pc.
That has not been matched by corresponding increases in the rent supplements paid to individuals and families on social welfare which vary from €250 per month for a single person up to €750 for a couple with children.
A rent supplement review is currently taking place but there is concern that, if an increase is sanctioned, it will be outstripped by the scale of rent hikes now taking place.
"The simple fact is that Government policy on rent supplements is the main reason why families are becoming homeless or facing the threat of losing their home," Focus Ireland director, Ger Spillane said.
The charity said that the problem could be solved "with the stroke of a pen" if rent supplements were linked to an indicator of rental trends with the property market.
The charity estimates that, at any one time, up to 5,000 Irish people can be classified as being homeless.
Focus also said it has dealt with families living in cars, three families temporarily sharing an apartment designed for one family and children being given to relatives for short periods because their parents have nowhere to live.
The Government said it is examining a range of measures to ease the rental pressures on families.
These include a review of the rent supplement system.
Other measures include the construction of new homes, the release of empty or unfinished housing units and the repair of existing local authority housing stock.