Housing chair fears rise in homelessness in 2014

The chairman of Westmeath’s Housing SPC says his greatest fear for 2014 is that people on the housing list won’t be able to access accommodation on the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

However, with rising rents, and rising house prices, Cllr Mick Dollard (Lab ) fears that a lot of landlords who in the past opted to get involved in the RAS might choose to realise the value of their properties by putting them on the open market.

“People will find themselves homeless,” he said at this week’s meeting of the Housing SPC at County Buildings in Mullingar.

The scheme sees suitable tenants and landlords matched up under a scheme that gives the landlord a guaranteed rent paid monthly in advance while the tenant pays a rent to the council according to their means.

However, the council’s Roibeárd O’Ceallaigh said that even in Dublin where rents and property values are rising at a “truly frightening” rate, landlords are reluctant to leave RAS.

This is mainly because they are paid a going rate a month in advance.

Westmeath County Council hopes to house 60 additional families through the Rental Accommodation Scheme in 2014; this figure is based on a net increase of 59 families so far this year.

The council now has RAS arrangements with landlords relating to 432 properties, with landlords in the county receiving rents totaling €2.1m each year from the Department of Environment.

Rental income to the council in 2013 is €680,000, because of the differential rent payment that allows tenants to pay according to their means.

Most sign-ups to the scheme involve a landlord and tenant approaching the council together, Mr O’Ceallaigh said

However, as rents rise he does anticipate that the supply of suitable properties will dry up and it will become tougher to find suitable matches under the RAS.

He showed councillors maps from the DAFT.ie website which show the average rent for a three-bed semi in Westmeath has increased by 1.5 per cent to €577 per month while in South County Dublin rents have increased by 8.4 per cent to €1,331 per month.

Neighbouring counties in the Midlands are more in line with Westmeath, however, with the average rent in Offaly at €560 per month (up 0.8 per cent ) and Longford at €437 per month (up 0.9 per cent ).

Across the border in Meath, rents are rising more significantly, at 3 per cent with the average monthly rent paid in the royal county coming in at €707.

Because no new properties are being built, supplies are shrinking, he said, adding that the Department funding for RAS comes through the Government’s revenue account, not capital spending.

The money cannot be used to build houses, he said.


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