Homeless charities give cautious welcome to Govt’s ‘New Deal for Tenants
2015-11-15 11:22:48 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem


Charities supporting homeless people across Ireland have given a cautious welcome to changes in regulations for private rental accommodation.


The ‘New Deal for Tenants’ plan announced by the Government proposes several measures, including increasing the rent review period from one to two years. Notice periods for rent reviews have also been increased.


Among other changes, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill will provide for the creation of a deposit protection scheme, new procedures for rent arrears cases and curbing potential abuses in attempts by landlords to terminate tenancies.


In a statement welcoming the measures, Focus Ireland warned that the plans may not be adequate in ending “the current homeless emergency situation” in the country.


“There are measures in the package which we have been seeking for some time – such as providing tax breaks to landlords that rent to social tenants, longer notice periods and greater scrutiny to stop landlords evicting tenants unfairly – and these will help the situation,” said Mike Allen, the charity’s director of advocacy.


“The measures to boost the building of new units are also welcome and long-overdue. However, there are two critical elements which the package does not address: the level of rent supplement and the actions of banks when they repossess buy-to-let landlords.”


Allen said these “are huge underlying issues and so the package risks not stemming the constant flow of 70 to 80 families a month losing their homes and becoming homeless in Dublin alone.


“This problem is also rising now in other major cities nationwide such as Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.”


Similar views have also been expressed by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), which “helps families priced out of the rental market and in emergency accommodation” and “believes that a functioning private rented sector needs certainty for tenants, landlords and also to attract investors.”


John-Mark McCafferty, head of social justice and policy, said the SVP is “pleased with the increase” in housing assistance payment limits, adding that the charity has long advocated for the limits to be reviewed “particularly in areas of high demand and significantly increased rents.


“We also proposed prior to the recent budget that a financial incentive to private landlords should be introduced through taxation for accepting tenants on the new housing assistance payment on condition that the quality of private rented homes are improved.”


The SVP put the blame on Ireland’s chronic lack of supply of social housing as a cause of the current housing crisis which has forced so many people into emergency accommodation.


According to the SVP, 2013 figures showed that about 89,000 households are in need of social housing.


McCafferty said the charity “expects this figure to have risen significantly when the Spring 2016 local authority waiting list figures are published.”


He also called for a radical implementation of the Government’s Social Housing 2020 Strategy to ensure that the  35,000 new social housing units it promises are immediately provided.


“We want to see the 20,000 Nama units announced in the recent Budget being dedicated to social and affordable homes, anything less would be a real missed opportunity,” added McCafferty.

TAGS : Homeless Homelessness Crisis New Deal for Tenants Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill Society of St Vincent de Paul SVP
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