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Pandemic creates opportunity for more investment in social and affordable housing - advisory body


Stock photo: PA

Stock photo: PA

Stock photo: PA

THE pandemic has created an opportunity for more direct investment in social and affordable housing, the National Economic and Social Council said.

It noted that the Covid crisis saw a 39pc rise in rental accommodation in Dublin.

In a new report, the council argues that the crisis demonstrates the capacity of government to take swift and decisive action.

Report author Noel Cahill said the prompt introduction of legislation to ban evictions and rent increases and the acquisition of additional accommodation for homeless households is evidence of how rapid action can be taken in a crisis.

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) advises the Taoiseach on strategic policy issues relating to economic, social and environmental development in Ireland.

Its members are made up of representatives from businesses, trade unions, farming organisations and the community and voluntary sector.

Mr Cahill said there has also been more intensive co-operation between official bodies and voluntary agencies in dealing with homelessness and a proactive approach to protecting homeless people from the virus.

The research also points out that there has been an increase in rental listings in Dublin.

“The total number of new listings of rental property to rent in Dublin in May 2020 was up 39pc compared to the same month last year,” he said.

The report points out there has been a fall in construction employment

But there is still an opportunity for more direct investment in social and affordable housing, including cost rental on public land and in renovation and energy retrofitting, the report adds.

According to the report, access to low cost finance is a critical factor for the development of cost rental accommodation, to achieve below market rents.

The ban on evictions during the crisis is an important protection, the report finds.

“Tenants who have built up arrears during the crisis are exposed to a risk of landlords taking action to secure termination of the tenancy when the ban on evictions expires, so it is important that it be extended”, Mr Cahill said.

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“The increased flexibility in the availability of rent supplement has the potential to protect many tenancies of people who have lost employment. However, there is a need to promote awareness of this flexibility.”

The researcher said the crisis will lead to an increase in mortgage arrears.

Covid-19 brought into sharp focus the unsuitability of accommodation for asylum seekers, the report states.

The crisis also showed up the “dangers of limited provision of shelters for those exposed to domestic abuse”.

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