Homelessness is increasing drastically throughout Ireland due to the rising property prices and shortage of available properties for sale or rent. Homelessness numbers reached 10,378 people at the end of April with almost 40 percent being children. In response the government has initiated some new programs and taken action into building social housing. Housing Minister, Eoghan Murphy, has claimed that his new Rebuilding Ireland Program has been working well since he implemented it.
Has Eoghan Murphy spent enough time and effort solving homelessness?
Emily Logan, Head of the Human Rights Body for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), would say otherwise. The IHREC accused the government of blaming this crisis as, “the by-product of market dynamics, or the price our society pays for progress.” Part of the housing shortage and rise in homelessness can be contributed to market problems, but the government needs to step up and take more action into drafting policies that would make a significant difference. The IHREC is very blunt when it comes to pointing the finger, they stated that the rising level of homelessness is, “significantly exacerbated by Government policy choices.” New social housing buildings could be a step in the right direction; however, it would require significant funding from the government. Raising taxes would be inevitable, but necessary, for providing shelter and a home for those that cannot afford current prices.
A large critique by the IHREC included, “the decision to withdraw from building social housing and to instead provide rent supplement for private renters has made low-income households extremely vulnerable to shocks in the house market.” Rental prices are much more dependent on short-term housing market swings. Rental prices vary pretty often, due to tenants having the ability to raise rents when market demand increases and subsequently driving up prices. Whereas, homes are decided on a single price and owners are not subject to short-term swings in the market.
An additional twist preventing people from renting is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). HAP is a payment given from the government to low income citizens to provide assistance in paying for housing. However, IHREC insisted that it had to support people who were being discriminated against when trying to access private rental accommodations. An additional number of families refused to except HAP payments because they would rather wait for social housing to open up that would provide more stability with payments.
IHREC and the Housing Department are going to need to work together to figure out the best way to solve current homelessness problems and contribute to additional social housing options. At the current climate, homelessness is going to continue to increase as Ireland is not delivering houses at the rate of the population growth. Look for homelessness and social housing to be a major political debate in the next year or so.