I heard Fr. Peter McVerry on “Morning Ireland” this morning talking about the anniversary of the death of Jonathan Corrie. He said also that this month a year ago, 40 families a month were becoming homeless.
A year later 73 families a month are becoming homeless. Mike Allen of Focus Ireland described this as “the changing face of homelessness” as many families are now becoming homeless, as distinct from individuals. Fr. Peter McVerry went on to say that even though additional beds had been opened, the number of homeless was higher than last year. He said on “Six One News” that, “As regards rough sleeping, very little has changed.” He rightly talked about the prevention of homelessness and the need for radical action. Examples he gave were renovating and refurbishing vacant houses, expanding the mortgage to rent scheme and, especially, giving people their own space in the provision of housing. This is one of the important issues that should be put to the Minister. Fr. McVerry gave the example of 50 people sleeping on a floor, which is unacceptable because there are issues relating to people’s dignity and the security and space they need. As he said, people can be terrified staying in dormitory-type accommodation. That is what happens in emergency accommodation. If people are sharing rooms, they fear for their safety and experience a lack of security.
I spoke recently about the increase in rents in County Galway. Rents increased in Galway city by 12% between July and September, because of which families lost their accommodation. The supply is not adequate, an issue which has to be addressed. The Minister announced the construction of 54 houses in the Galway County Council area this year and I hope money will be provided to allow construction to start because the issue of housing supply is so important. The county council has a waiting list that is eight to ten years long and the city council has an even longer waiting list. When people make inquiries and are told they will have to wait eight to ten years, it is hard to take. It is more difficult for a homeless family to make inquiries in these circumstances. People are moving nine or ten miles outside the city where rents are also increasing but where there are more opportunities to secure housing. It was interesting to read headlines in local newspapers about students at the end of August. One headline read “Rental Chaos for Students”. They should have been able to find accommodation in the city, but they had to move nine or ten miles from it.
The Minister’s party colleague, Deputy Derek Nolan, spoke well about the 50% increase in rents in Galway in the past four years. He gave an example of a three-bedroom semi-detached house. The rent increased from €800 per month in 2011 to €1,300 per month this year. This follows a housing shortage and house price increases. What has happened in Galway is similar to what is happening in other parts of the country. There might be some one-off housing constructed by people on their own sites and a small number of properties developed by NAMA. Can the agency not do something about the social housing issue? We want more social housing, not just private housing.
Threshold states rent certainty measures could be introduced by making amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and points out that the law, as it stands, does not protect tenants or landlords from rapid increases or decreases in market rent levels. This creates a risk of homelessness for tenants and uncertainty for landlords as to their rental income. Rent certainty measures must achieve a fair balance between the property rights of landlords and the interests of the community at large.