"Skyrocketing rents" fueling homelessness crisis - Threshold

Housing charity unveils its annual report to coincide with the release of new Government plans to limit rental prices in key areas around the country

"Skyrocketing rents" fueling homelessness crisis - Threshold

The Homeless Jesus sculpture outside Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

'Skyrocketing rents' are among the main causes of homelessness according to a leading housing charity.

Threshold is unveiling its annual report today - to coincide with the release of new Government plans to limit rental prices in key areas around the country.

The charity says potential rent caps in 'pressure zones' like Dublin and Cork could curb unexpected hikes by landlords - but warned that rental prices around the country are still far too high.

According to the report, the number of people contacting the charity with concerns over their tenancies rose by 54% last year.

Threshold chairperson Aideen Hayden said half of the people that approached the charity last year were, “people who were working and at immediate risk of losing their homes.”

“One of the issues that is going to be critical here is what is going to happen in relation to providing affordable rental accommodation,” she said.

“People will be renting in this country for the foreseeable future and affordability is going to be a major, major issue.”

Rents have already increased dramatically this year by an average of 11.7 per cent - according to the latest Daft.ie report - the biggest 12-month increase recorded since its series started in 2002.

The Minister for Housing's new plan for the rental market has been met with scepticism by opposition TD's - with Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA-PPP) TD Paul Murphy saying the 4% cap is above the current rate of inflation and "still running ahead of the general cost of living."

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said people have been "driven out of affordability" in Dublin.

Threshold reported a 26% rise nationally in the number of tenants seeking advice and support for rent reviews in the past year

Ms Hayden said tenants have been approaching the charity with rent increases of up to 40%.

She said if the government plans can limit rent rises to 4% that would be “an improvement.”

“This poses a real threat to all tenants, and is resulting in the most vulnerable, low-income tenants being squeezed out of the market and in some cases, falling into homelessness,” she said.

“The current crisis in the private rented sector has been caused by a perfect storm of unaffordable rents, shortage of supply and a regulatory framework that simply does not support long-term renting.

“Disproportionate rent increases in particular are pushing hundreds of families into homelessness at an accelerated rate.

“The 54 per cent spike in calls that Threshold experienced in the past year is indicative of the huge issues that are faced by those living in the private rented sector.”

The Threshold report has also found the standard of private rented accommodation to be a “major concern” affecting the most vulnerable in society.

The most common complaints received by threshold included poor fire safety standards and ventilation issues with other breaches relating to heating, sanitation, damp and mould.

“This issue of poor standards is, worryingly, a growing trend,” said Ms Hayden. “This is being compounded by the current availability crisis, and we are seeing increasing incidences of overcrowding.”

“Also, the need for adequate standards is brought into sharp focus with the cold weather - making standards the number one concern for Threshold’s clients at this time of year.”

Threshold is calling on the government to introduce an ‘NCT’ style certificate scheme for rented accommodation.

Under the proposal a landlord would require up-to-date certification endorsed by an approved professional to rent a property and avail of tax credits, subsidies or housing payments delivered in the private rented sector.

Ms Hayden said the system could make it easier for local authorities to enforce the law and provide greater protection for tenants.