Galway’s homeless are homeless longer than they should be, says COPE

Many people in Galway city are ending up homeless for much longer than they need to be, according to COPE Galway, which is calling on the Department of Social Protection to urgently address these shortcomings of the Rent Supplement system by increasing cap levels, simplifying the application process, and allowing social protection officers to have discretionary powers to respond to exceptional circumstances that may arise.

These recommendations are detailed in full in a joint submission which has been made this week to the Department of Social Protection by COPE Galway and the Voice of COPE Galway Client Forum. It is hoped that if implemented these measure would assist rent supplement recipients to secure affordable accommodation in the city.

According to a survey on rent levels carried out in Galway city over a five week period in February and March of this year, just 17 of the 162 properties advertised were within current rent cap levels and accepted tenants on rent supplement. The survey found that one bedroom properties in particular were in very short supply, and that the average rent in the city was €630 per month - the monthly rent cap for a single person household for this property size is €450 and for a couple it is €540. The situation families face in finding housing within the rent cap levels is no less challenging with the average monthly rent of €762 for a three bedroom property well above the current rent supplement cap of €700.

“Our experience in working with and supporting those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to find accommodation is that rents are simply too high for people depending on rent supplement,” explained Martin O’Connor of COPE Galway who added: “This is resulting in people being homeless for much longer than is appropriate or necessary.”

According to the charity, people who are homeless are having to spend longer periods of time

in emergency accommodation due to not being able to find housing they can afford and in some instances people are entering into informal and illegal arrangements with landlords to pay ‘top-ups’ from their own income support to make up the difference and to secure housing.

It is understood that the Department of Social Protection will be shortly undertaking a revision of the rent cap levels with a view to introducing revised limits to take effect from July 1, 2013. COPE Galway is urging the Department to increase the rent cap levels for Galway city and adjust the payment of rent supplement and deposits to suit the prices and practices in the private rented market.

COPE Galway

provided emergency accommodation to in excess of 330 in 2012 and supported people in their search for independent accommodation as they worked to rebuild their lives and move out of homelessness.

 

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