IMPACT trade union has said that Government intervention in a ‘chaotic’ private rental market is one of a number of necessary measures needed to address the current homelessness crisis.
Speaking today (Thursday 9th July) at the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s conference in Ennis, County Clare, IMPACT organiser Joe O’Connor said that a range of solutions are necessary to address the current housing shortage.
The union’s motion to conference calls for a co-ordinated plan to ensure housing provision, an end to homelessness and adequate security of tenure, including the regulation of rents through an indexation system similar to systems in use in other EU countries.
Mr O’Connor said the indexation approach links any rent increases to the consumer price index (CPI).
“These operate successfully in many countries such as Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland, which in different ways offer a degree of contractual certainty and security of tenure which hard-pressed Irish tenants desperately need to prevent many more becoming homeless.
“In Germany, the ‘Mietspiegel’ rent index policy controls rent increases at 15% over 3 years, which in practice led to increases of less than 5% between 2000 and 2012, at the same time as unregulated prices in France doubled during this period,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said that this type of approach could guarantee landlord’s market rents at the beginning of a new tenancy, and prevent them from exploiting market conditions through proper regulation. He added, “Any suggestion that we’re powerless to intervene in the rental market to protect the most vulnerable in our society is defeatist and unacceptable. Every week we defer decisive action pushes more and more families into homelessness.”
Mr O’Connor told conference delegates, “We’re in the grip of a homelessness crisis in this country which has seen more than 970 children become homeless in April, increasing to 1,034 in May, and the current figure is 1,122. This figure includes 303 single parent families.”
He added that the average number of people becoming homeless each month last year was 40, and has now risen to an average of 65 people per month. “The root of the problem is a shortage of suitable housing. That shortage is driving up the cost of rent and, as it climbs, it’s pushing families into homelessness,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said investment in social housing announced in Budget 2015 – alongside the Government’s social housing strategy which aims to deliver 10,000 extra housing units by 2018 – were welcome developments, “But other measures are vital because 90,000 people are on the social housing waiting list while more are struggling to cope with exorbitant rental prices and mortgage payments.
“For those families relying on rent supplement, most of the available rental property in Ireland exceeds the current rent supplement cap. For example, the limit is currently set at €975 per month in Dublin for family with two children. Average rents are €1,325. Looking at towns such as Athlone and Portlaoise, the number of available rental properties within the limit is zero,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said “This crisis is now and solutions are needed now. Citizens have a fundamental human right to not just a roof or mere shelter, but a home. We must act immediately to ensure this aspiration becomes a reality for current and future generations of working people.”