The Simon Communities have warned that a persistent and chronic lack of affordable housing supply will continue to drive some people into homelessness.
Launching its latestreport, which looks at the availability of housing for people on rental supports, the Simon Communities found just four properties were available within standard housing assistance payment (HAP) limits for a single person and just six two-bedroom units within standard HAP rates for a couple/one parent and one child across all 16 study areas.
Six of the 16 study areas did not have a single property available within either standard of discretionary HAP limits in any of the four family categories, while 95% of properties available within HAP limits were in Dublin.
According to thereport, there were 3,019 properties available to rent at any price within the 16 regional areas over the period December 14 to 16 last – a "significant" 19% increase from the 2,543 properties which were available to rent at any price in the September 2020 Locked Out study period but similar to the number in last June's report.
There were 1,160 properties available under a HAP or discretionary HAP limit, a 57% increase on the 738 properties which were available with at least one HAP category in the September study, but according to the report: "In six of the 16 areas, there were no properties available to rent in any category within standard or discretionary Rent Supplement/Housing Assistance Payment HAP limits. Those areas were Galway City Centre, Limerick City Suburbs, Limerick City Centre, Sligo Town, Portlaoise and Waterford City Centre."
In addition, Athlone had just one property coming within any HAP limit, and Galway city suburbs had just three properties coming within any HAP limit. Areas that did see an increase in the availability of properties within the means of a HAP recipient included Cork city and county.
One example of the struggle to source accommodation is that of Jonathan, a 30-year-old who has overcome addiction problems and who began looking for a one-bedroom HAP accommodation in Galway last July and has searched daily for suitable apartments, without success.
"Although he quickly expanded his search beyond the city to the entire county of Galway, Jonathan has been invited to view just four properties in total," the report said.
Wayne Stanley, head of policy and communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland, said the 20% fall in homelessness in the past year was to be welcomed, alongside measures to limit homelessness during the pandemic.
"We are concerned that when the restrictions are eventually lifted, we’ll go back to where we were or worse as we haven’t seen the full effect of fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
"We need greater discretion on HAP payments for local authorities outside Dublin. Allocation of local authority housing across Ireland to get people out of homelessness combined with a programme of building that’s going to provide the needed level of social and affordable housing."