Cork Simon call for housing and homeless issues to be tackled in upcoming budget

In conjunction with Simon Communities across Ireland, the Cork charity called on the Government to bring 5,000 vacant properties back into the market for social housing through the Repair & Lease Scheme.
Cork Simon call for housing and homeless issues to be tackled in upcoming budget

Paul Sheehan at their city centre administration office. Pic: Larry Cummins.

In its pre-budget submission, Cork Simon has called on the Government to target vacant homes for social housing, double funding for homelessness prevention work, and commit to a referendum on the right to housing.

In conjunction with Simon Communities across Ireland, the Cork charity called on the Government to bring 5,000 vacant properties back into the market for social housing through the Repair & Lease Scheme.

Paul Sheehan, campaigns and communications manager with Cork Simon, said the charity has seen a significant rise this year in the number of people experiencing homelessness, in Cork and nationwide.

“The cost of housing is the single biggest issue pushing people into homelessness, and keeping them there for far too long,” Mr Sheehan said.

“There simply aren’t enough homes coming on stream in the short to medium-term.

“We’re urging the government to take decisive action to put a programme in place to bring 5,000 vacant homes across the country back into use in 2023 through an enhanced repair and lease scheme,” he said.

“We believe this alone would have a significant impact on reducing the number of people being pushed into homelessness as well as reducing the number of people stuck in long-term homelessness.” Simon is also calling on the Government to double its funding for homeless prevention.

“Stopping the flow of people being pushed into homelessness benefits everyone, especially those who are on the very edge of homelessness,” Mr Sheehan said.

“Preventing homelessness addresses the core drivers of housing insecurity before they reach crisis point.

“During the height of the Pandemic, the Government introduced temporary measures that put a stay on rent increases and on evicting people into homelessness,” he said.

“These measures had a positive impact on the number of people being pushed into homelessness; that number started to increase again as soon as they were lifted.” The charity is recommending that the Government allow for 14,000 additional Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) tenancies in 2023, with a 40% increase to standard HAP rates and increase the discretionary top-up rate to 50% in all local authority areas.

“An increasing number of households are depending on HAP to help make their housing needs affordable,” Mr Sheehan said.

“By the beginning of this year, rents nationwide rose by around 40% over five years, with every community affected, while HAP rates have remained static over the same period.

“HAP rates no longer meet current market rents, resulting in more and more households paying top-ups directly to their landlord,” he said.

“More vulnerable households will only increase the number of people at the very edge of homelessness, and it won’t take much to tip people over the edge.

“HAP rates need to be increased by 40% in line with market rents,” he added.

The Simon Community is also urging Government to host a referendum on the right to housing “A right to housing in our Constitution would mean the State recognising the fundamental human need for affordable housing,” Mr Sheehan said.

“It would put an onus on the Government of the day to make sure we have sufficient homes for everyone in the State, including sufficient levels of affordable housing and social housing needed.

“Housing is a basic human need,” he said.

“We’re asking the Government to honour its commitment in its programme for government to host a Constitutional referendum on housing and let the people have their say.”

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