'Hidden homelessness' creeping in as Mayo rental market tightens

Homelessness is a very real problem in Mayo but it is not presenting itself in a stereotypical way, as individuals sleeping rough on the streets or in parks.

Instead, there are families, couples and young people who don't have the means to rent or buy a home of their own and are instead living in complete uncertainty, reliant on their parents, relatives, or even, in some cases, going from couch to couch, relying on the good will of their friends.

This is just one of the growing number of challenges faced by 'Generation Rent', according to housing advice and advocacy service Threshold.

Diarmuid O'Sullivan, services manager with Threshold, was in Mayo this week to launch the charity's first clinic in the county, in reponse to what he said was a growing number of calls for help and advice from Mayo renters.

The clinic will operate on the second Thursday of every month from Castlebar Citizens Information Service at Cavendish House on the Link Road.

Mr O'Sullivan outlined that one in five people in Ireland is now living in private rented accommodation and his charity anticipates this figure will increase further.

"It is Generation Rent," he said. "There is a growing number of people who now and probably into the future will remain in the private rental sector."

But there are serious challenges for these 700,000 or so people, such as affordability, availability, uncertainty, and a disconnect between the maximum rents allowed under rent supplment caps and actual market rents.

Mr O'Sullivan added that over a quarter of mortgages in the buy-to-let sector are in arrears, and as banks move to push landlords into selling or repossess these homes, this will only fuel the crisis further.

"Homelessness is the stark result of the problems we are facing" - Threshold

"Homelessness is the stark result of the problems we are facing in the private rental sector," he stated.

"The problem of hidden homelessness is there. There are people ending up staying with someone for two to three weeks, or even two to three months on a couch. Invariably, at some stage, those arrangements fall down and people have to move out."

Teresa Carney, Castlebar Citizens Information Service, said there are no statistics to document the hidden homelessness problem but she is seeing people present with the issue at their office.

"People can be homeless but you're not seeing it," she outlined. "In previous times, there would be an expectation that when you reach a certain age in life, you would be able to branch out by yourself and have your own home. But that isn't necessarily the case anymore.

"There are families who are moving back in with granny and grandad or there are young people on a social welfare payment who can't compete in the rental market so they are staying with friends.

"Not every situation works out. It is great if you have mam and dad but if you don't have that, you are dependant on the goodwill of friends and that is likely to run out at some stage.

"People are stuck really. They can't afford to rent and what we find from our experience is that when people do go to look for accommodation, there is not a huge amount out there and rents can be high if you are on a limited income."

The new Threshold outreach clinic will provide advice to tenants on all aspects of renting including rent increases, notice of termination, illegal eviction, deposit retention and issues with repair and maintenance in rented properties.

For more information, visit www.threshold.ie


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