November 25, 2022

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There has been a “stark decline” in the availability of affordable properties to rent by people reliant on the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) over the past year, a new report has found.

Hap, a form of social housing support, is available to tenants seeking to rent accommodation, the cost of which falls under “rent limits” outlined in statutory regulations.

The limit varies depending on location and household type, though flexibility of up to 20 per cent may be provided, on a case-by-case basis, where a household cannot find suitable accommodation within these limits. A 50 per cent discretionary limit is available in Dublin.

However, the Simon Communities of Ireland’s latest quarterly Locked Out of the Market report found there were 37 properties available under a standard or discretionary limit across 16 areas across three days in June.

This represented a decrease of 43 per cent on the 80 properties which were available within at least one Hap category in March, and 95 per cent less than the 906 available in June 2021.

Only two of the available properties were affordable under a standard Hap limit, with the remaining 35 falling under discretionary rates.

Nine of the 16 study areas had no properties available to rent in any household category within standard or discretionary Hap limits. These were Cork city centre, Dublin city centre, Galway city centre, Galway city suburbs, Co Leitrim, Limerick city suburbs, Limerick city centre, Sligo Town, and Portlaoise.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien recently announced the discretionary rate would increase to 35 per cent for areas outside Dublin.

If the 35 per cent discretionary rate had been introduced at the time of this study, an additional five Hap properties would have been available.

The Minister has also increased the single adult Hap rate to match the couple’s rate. If this measure was introduced at the time of the study, singles and couples would have 17 properties available to them under standard and discretionary Hap rates.

At the current rates, Athlone was the only location with a property within standard Hap limits for single people.

Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland, said homelessness is increasing and the availability of affordable accommodation is declining at “unprecedented levels”.

“We do acknowledge the positive intervention that the Minister for Housing has made with the increase in HAP rates. Our study shows it will have a positive, if limited impact, in supporting those on Hap to secure a home,” he said

“However, we also have to acknowledge the depth of the crisis in housing. That means we have to start looking for options that can create some breathing room in the housing system. The 166,000 vacant homes identified in the census is a starting point.”

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