More people at risk of homelessness due to rising rent costs, say COPE in budget submission

A growing number of people are at risk of homelessness due to rising rent levels and a shortage of affordable private rented accommodation in the city.

That is the stark message from COPE Galway, the charity which provides a number of services for those at risk of homelessness, people experiencing domestic violence and older people living independently.

It warns that families and individuals living in the community are experiencing a “very real crisis” because of this housing issue and action must be taken immediately to rectify it.

It is urging the Government to prioritise spending on social housing in Budget 2015 to tackle waiting lists.

The organisation is also calling for more immediate measures including increasing rent supplement caps and providing additional resources to local authorities to allow them to compete in the private market. This would allow them to secure housing stock through the rental accommodation scheme and long term leasing.

COPE is also proposing the introduction of time limited incentives for private landlords to accept tenants on rent supplement and Housing Assistance Payment or to make their properties available under the Rental Accommodation Scheme or long-term leasing while additional social housing is being built.

Other measures the local charity has identified as necessary in next year’s Budget include the introduction of some form of rent regulation measure to help ensure that any rent increases in the private rented sector are reasonable and predictable. Also, it highlights the importance of allocating additional resources to the Department of Social Protection to ensure that the prevention and addressing of homelessness is prioritised through the operation of the rent supplement scheme.

In its pre-Budget submission launched this week, COPE is calling on the Government to allocate €500m in Budget 2015 for a social housing building programme with a portion of this ringfenced for housing for long term homeless people.

“Significant Government investment in the provision of social housing needs to be prioritised in the upcoming budget for 2015 if the housing crisis we are currently experiencing here locally in Galway is to be properly addressed,” explains Martin O’Connor, the assistant CEO of COPE Galway.

“There is a growing social housing waiting list and despite various initiatives such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and long term leasing it is clear that the private rented sector cannot be relied on to meet levels of need that the city is facing.

“There is a very real crisis happening for families and individuals living in our community because of rising rent levels and a shortage of affordable private rented accommodation in Galway city currently,” he outlines.

“For this reason immediate measures, including the introduction of rent regulation, increasing rent supplement cap levels and resourcing of the local housing authority to compete in the private market, need to be included in Budget 2015.”

The charity provides help and support to an increasing number of families and individuals who are at risk of homelessness due to rising rent levels and a shortage of affordable private rented accommodation. The organisation is also seeing people they house in their emergency and transitional accommodation staying for longer due to not being able to find suitable and affordable independent accommodation. This in turn means that spaces are not becoming available to meet the needs of new presentations.

“This is extremely frustrating for everyone concerned, most especially the individuals and families who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. These are life altering experiences for people as they are without something as basic as a place to live and to call home,” adds Mr O’Connor.

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