Cork Simon: Homelessness crisis is worsening

Cork Simon: Homelessness crisis is worsening

THERE are 15 vacant properties for every homeless person in emergency accommodation in Cork.

Charities are warning that they have yet to see an improvement in the numbers falling into homelessness in the city.

Staff at Cork Simon have appealed to central government to introduce short-term measures to ease pressure on the housing market, warning that their Anderson's Quay shelter is over capacity every single night.

Statistics released by the Department of Housing have shown that 295 people accessed emergency accommodation in Cork during the last week of March.

At the same time, the latest Census figures have shown that there are almost 4,500 vacant properties in Cork, equating to almost 15 properties per person in emergency accommodation.

Sophie Johnston, research and communications coordinator with Cork Simon, has warned that the charity is still facing huge pressure, despite the introduction of new initiatives by central government in recent months.

She said, "There is still huge pressure on the sector. We are over-capacity every night, with an average of 53 people in our emergency shelter.

"People are staying longer than before, too. Last year we saw our longest ever stay. There just isn't enough housing," said Ms Johnston.

She urged the Housing Minister to introduce short-term measures to ease the pressure.

"Something needs to happen with rent supplement and HAP. The payments are drastically below market rent," she said.

The average one-bed apartment in Cork costs €783 per month, with a single person on rent supplement only eligible for €550 per month.

"The discrepancy is huge," Ms Johnston said.

"What we need is rent certainty to keep people from losing their homes. The recent rent pressure zones, which cap rent increases at 4% per annum, are welcome. They are an improvement, but these increases still add up and cause some uncertainty."

The recently revealed repair-and-lease scheme is 'very promising', Ms Johnston said.

The scheme will see central government fund the repair of vacant houses with the cost of the repairs offset by rent payments over a ten-year period. It is designed to bring long-term vacant units back to use.

Cork Simon will shortly launch a joint initiative with Focus Ireland to access the scheme.

Ms Johnston said, "We are hoping to secure 10 to 20 properties. The owner would lease the properties to us and Focus Ireland and we would, in turn, lease them to people accessing emergency accommodation.

"This would allow people who are currently locked out of the housing market to access properties and free up beds in the shelters."

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