NYCI is a founding member of the Irish Coalition to End Youth Homelessness
The housing situation in Ireland has reached crisis proportions. Currently many young people living in Ireland are either unable to afford to move out of home or they struggle to access affordable housing. The current demand for housing has placed a significant burden on housing sectors across the board. The most recent data from NESC indicate that there were 305,377 households in the private rented sector in 2011 with the percentage in the sector increasing from 11% in 2002 to 19% in 2011. The majority of those renting are young (18-34) and single (63% and 61%) respectively. Property rental prices continue to rise in urban areas, increasing by 15% in the year up to June 2014, and in the Dublin commuter counties by 11%.
Rental controls should be introduced to cap the rental prices in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). To ensure that rent control does not compromise supply, it is important that rent control is accompanied by reform of the tax relief on rental income to ensure landlords continue to provide their properties to the rental market. The City of Berlin have recently introduced rent caps prohibiting landlords from charging new tenants more than 10% above the local average. We propose that rent should be regulated so that annual rent increases should be limited to the Consumer Price Index.
At present private rental agreements between landlords and tenants are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act, 2004. This legislation provides some security for the tenant after the initial 6 months period, subject to break periods every four years which allow the landlord to end the tenancy, if they so wish. Even during the four years there are a number of circumstances where the landlord can terminate the tenancy, such as sale of property, required for own/family use, refurbishments.
Of course, young people are not a homogenous group and while some are more mobile than others and would prefer not to be tied into a very long lease, there are young people who have families and would prefer better security of tenure with the option to negotiate a long-term lease. For these young people, the option of negotiating a long-term lease should be available after the initial 6 month period of the tenant’s residence. After the initial 6 month period the tenant should be entitled to negotiate a long-term lease. This would require abolishing the 4 year cycle of tenancy renewal.
The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 – 2015, Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, identifies ‘economic security and opportunity’ as a national outcome for children and young people up to the age of 25. Despite this homelessness amongst young people in Ireland is a significant problem as they have difficulty accessing affordable and quality housing in the private rental market and/or social housing sector. The current high rates of youth unemployment and cuts in social welfare for young people in successive budgets has made it increasingly difficult for young people to afford to leave home and live independently. Likewise these cuts have made it very challenging for young people leaving care to access housing. Furthermore there are a myriad of issues that a young person can experience in their young lives that can lead them into homelessness, for example, family relationship breakdown, mental health problems, child abuse, substance misuse, etc. Therefore youth homelessness is increasing.
In 2014 the Government published the General Scheme and Heads of the Aftercare Bill, which is designed to improve the statutory aftercare provisions for young people leaving the care system. It will place a duty on the State to provide an aftercare plan for each eligible young person leaving the care of the State. However we are concerned that the proposed legislation does not guarantee housing for young people leaving care. A joint working protocol between TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, and the Local Authorities has to date, failed to ring-fence properties for young people leaving care. Instead, these young people are left to the mercy of the market and local authority schemes. Addressing the housing needs of care-leavers is a fundamental aspect of aftercare support. Some care-leavers may be ready to progress to independent living, while others will require a more supportive setting initially. Both options must be available as international and Irish research has found that periods in State care constitute a significant pathway into long-term homelessness.
Another key issue which the legislation must address is the eligibility for aftercare. Some young people who were not in care for more than a year prior to reaching 18 years are being refused aftercare support. This means they have to access adult homeless services, which can have very negative consequences. Therefore some very vulnerable young people who should be in receipt of aftercare support are being excluded for administrative reasons rather than on the basis of need. Therefore the Aftercare Bill must ensure that supports are provided on the basis of need rather than solely based on time spent in the care system. The legislation should facilitate professional discretion and assessment in this regard. While improving the statutory basis for aftercare is to be welcomed, NYCI believes that young people must also be meaningfully supported to secure long-term accommodation. Young people must be able to access the support services they need when facing homelessness. For example, the emergency out of hour’s social work service should be expanded to be more widely available. Further investment must also be made into services which assist young people in sustaining their accommodation and remaining out of homelessness. These include mental health, addiction, and employment services. Investment in such services is a crucial preventative measure to ensure young people remain in secure accommodation.
NESC Report 141 on Private Rented Sector, Ireland’s Private Rental Sector: Pathways to Secure Occupancy and Affordable Supply,
NESC Report 138 on Social Housing, Social Housing at the Crossroads: Possibilities for Investment, Provision and Cost Rental, June 2014
Joint Committee on Health and Children Report on General Scheme of the Aftercare Bill 2014
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