Housing support agency Threshold said there was now a ‘Generation Rent’ in Ireland who would find it difficult to get on the housing ladder and who therefore were living according to the whims of the rental market.
Senator Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold, said the scenario faced by this generation also heaped pressure on government to ensure there was a good flow of decent quality rented accommodation and increased stability and security for tenants.
“The private rented sector has more than doubled in size in recent years and now provides housing for one in five families,” said Ms Hayden. “However, there are chronic failings in the sector that need to be addressed before anyone living in rented accommodation can really consider it to be a long-term home.
“We have to accept that the private rented sector today is about Irish families and it must be fit for purpose to provide them with suitable homes. The Government has devised strategies for the construction sector and the social housing sector, but no national plan of action can be considered complete without a strategy for the rented sector. This must now become a Government priority.”
The rising level of rents in the private rented sector has been cited as a major factor in the increasing number of homeless families around the country, particularly in large urban areas such as Dublin and Cork.
It has led to calls for new measures from the Department of Social Protection to ensure that more people do not get priced out of renting privately available housing, as well as demands for a greater supply of social housing around the country.
The conference heard that household sizes are falling, while the St Vincent De Paul society said the private rented sector sometimes acted as a pathway to homelessness for some families.
The conference also heard that the private rented sector has not caught up with its new role as a long-term housing provider, at a time when one in five families are living in private rented accommodation. John O’Connor of the Housing Agency said affordable housing always costs money and that funding options such as subsidies, land, tax incentives, planning interventions, and guarantees needed to be explored.
Threshold launched its own legislative proposals for rent certainty, which it presented to Environment Minister Alan Kelly.
Among the recommendations is the creation of an index of ‘reference rents’, drawn from the existing Private Residential Tenancies Board register, to enable landlords and tenants to identify the average market rent for comparable properties in similar locations over a preceding four-year period.
It would also give the minister the power to set initial rents in areas with high demand and low supply.
A number of speakers from home and abroad addressed the conference, which was held in the Royal Irish Academy in central Dublin.