Relying on the private rental sector is "not appropriate" for delivering social housing, or tackling Galway's accommodation crisis, especially as there are no properties available to rent for people on Housing Assistance Payment or on rent supplement.
This is the finding of Locked Out Of The Market XI, the Simon Communities's latest report on rental properties available in Galway city, with Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon, saying its findings were "shocking".
The report showed no properties were available to rent in Galway city within the Rent Supplement/HAP limits across the four categories - single person; couple; couple/parent with one child; couple/parent with two children - while an average of only 18 properties were available to rent in Galway between May 1 and 3 when the study was carried out.
The study also found that rent for three one-bed properties available in Galway were between €850 and €1,000, well above the Rent Supplement/HAP limit of €575 for a one-bedroom property for a single person, while an available 10 two-bed properties were between €1,100 and €1,750, were also in excess of Rent Supplement/HAP limit of €875 for a couple or parent with two children.
The average of only 18 properties available to rent in Galway in May represents an 82.7 per cent decrease from May 2015, when the first Simon report on this issue was published, when an average of 104 properties had been available. The local charity say this trend is "extremely worrying", given 72 per cent (668 units ) of Galway's social housing targets for 2018 are to be delivered through Housing Assistance Payment and Rental Accommodation Scheme tenancies in the private rental sector across the city and county.
The main plank of the Government's approach to tackling the State's accommodation crisis has been to rely on the private rental sector, however the Simon Community said Locked Out Of The Market XI "demonstrates yet again that the private rental sector is not appropriate for the delivery of social housing". The report also shows Galway's private rental sector is "out of reach for those relying on assistance payments" as the gap between housing support limits and market rent prices continues to increase.
"For the last four Locked Out studies, over a period of almost a year, not one property has been available to rent within the housing benefit limits and this is extremely worrying," said Ms Golden. "It is shocking the rental market is out of reach for so many. A lot of the people we support, and many more in the community, rely on housing benefits like Rent Supplement/HAP to provide them with housing. However, as the gap between these limits and market rents continues to grow, more people are being pushed further towards homelessness."
Ms Golden pointed out that the decrease in supply of affordable properties within the private rental sector, and the fact there was "virtually no new social housing coming on stream", meant current housing supply was "inadequate to meet the demand from the local community".
As a result, the Simon Community is calling on the Government to "focus on preventative measures" and to start building and developing more social housing directly. Ms Golden added it was "vitally important" the Government "focus on keeping people in the homes they already have".
"Every day we see the effects that early intervention and prevention has on those we work with," she said. "Our focus on prevention can mean the difference between an individual, or family, staying in the family home, or uprooting their entire life and entering emergency accommodation, not knowing when they'll come out. If we can prevent someone from becoming homeless in the first place, we can in turn reduce the trauma for them of having to access emergency homeless services. Prevention ultimately reduces the human and economic costs associated with homelessness."