Friday 31 October 2014

One family a day made homeless as rent crisis bites

Gareth Naughton

Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30

Mike Allen of Focus Ireland

More than one family a day was made homeless in Dublin last month, new figures reveal.

Focus Ireland, a leading homelessness charity, said the capital's rising rents cannot be covered by social welfare payments.

Mike Allen, advocacy director at the organisation, revealed that 39 families lost their homes in the city during July alone.

"Many of these families lost their homes because the rent supplement system failed them," he said.

The charity is calling on the Government to overhaul the rent supplement system to meet the realities of rising rental prices in the Dublin market. The system is battling to cope with the increase in homeless families and even the provision of emergency accommodation is coming under strain.

Last Friday, Focus struggled to find emergency accommodation for a woman with two children, including a six-month-old infant. Families going into emergency accommodation - usually hotels - can find themselves trapped there for months.

"The problem is that 39 families a month are coming in and the same amount are not leaving the system. We are only managing to secure permanent accommodation for some of those families so some are getting trapped in the system and still more are coming in the next month which is putting a squeeze on it," he said.

Solving the problem is not a big mystery, according to Mr Allen: "We have to get rent supplement to match market rents. If the Government is saying that the private rental market is where people dependant on the State need to go for housing at the moment, then the policies in place should give them realistic access to that accommodation."

He said it was "not sustainable" for families to pay this top-up month-on-month, warning it was pushing families deeper into debt and nearer to homelessness.

Under the present system, rent supplement is capped in each area based on average rents in the lowest third of the market. The system is currently under review by the Department of Social Protection and Focus Ireland have made a submission calling for the caps to match real rent levels.

"We cannot escape from the fact that there are not enough homes to rent in the lowest third of the market for everyone who is seeking a home to secure a roof over their heads. The Government must open its eyes to this fact. They have a responsibility and a duty to do so to protect families and individuals who are being priced out of the market," he said.

Irish Independent

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