Amendment No 53, Section 15:
An amendment to section 20 of the Principal Act to provide for the extension of the duration between rent reviews from 12 months to 24 months for a period of 4 years, after which the period will revert to 12 months.
***requirement on the part of the Landlord to justify the reasonableness of the rent increase***
While this amendment falls far short of the measures of rent certainty I would like to have seen introduced, for example rent increases that are in line with an external measurement like the Consumer Price Index suggested by Threshold, I absolutely welcome this amendment as a much needed and long overdue first.
The latest quarterly Daft Report was published today and shows that in the third quarter of 2015, rents rose nationwide by an average of 3.2%, which represents the largest 3 month jump in rents since 2007 while supply on the rental market, just 4,000 properties available to rent nationwide today and very few of which offer affordable family accommodation, at its tightest on record.
The current “monopolistic private rental market”, characterised by rapidly increasing rents and a complete dearth of housing supply is intrinsically linked to our spiralling homelessness and risk of homelessness crisis.
Minister, I have spoken on this issue on a number of occasions in the past. I only plan to speak on this grouping of amendments this afternoon.
I have a number of questions and I look forward to hearing your answers from the floor. I will also be happy to forward any of these questions to you in writing if they require time for further consideration.
In November 2014 homelessness agencies were reporting that 700 children were living in emergency accommodation. In twelve months, this figure has now grown to 1500. It is extremely likely that this number will continue to increase as:
- supply continues to be constrained and there’s no indication of a step change in new supply, given the pipeline of sites that are development ready and with available finance ;
- new homes recently announced (modular housing) will only serve to meet part of the back log;
- the private rented sector is likely to remain attractive to those who can afford it, and those who cannot access homeownership- I.e. So called ‘young professionals.
Affordable family accommodation is therefore chronically under supplied.
Minister, do you have a figure for projected demand for emergency accommodation for families with children? What exactly are you planning for?
Setting aside numbers in emergency accommodation, research has shown that where homelessness among children increases, this is coupled with a rise in children living in unsuitable and/or overcrowded accommodation, sometimes sharing with other families, which parents view as preferable to presenting as homeless.
Minister, do you have an estimated figure for the number of children who are living in overcrowded accommodation? Has a study been done into this area of concern or is one planned?
I and many of the children’s rights organisations (such as ISPCC) following these issues, are deeply concerned at the immediate and the long term impacts for children who are placed in emergency accommodation.
Temporary accommodation (whether hostel , emergency or any other forms of temporary accommodation) can all adversely impact on children. In many cases the lack of stability and uncertainty is deeply worrying for children and this is reflected in anecdotal evidence from the ISPCC Childline service.
It affects children’s ability to play due to lack of space, and often quiet spaces to study are impossible to find. At its worst, lack of natural light and outdoor spaces are also likely to affect development. Children report being extremely stressed, and often hide this stress and worry from their parents, who are also often struggling.
Emergency hotel accommodation is the most concerning type of accommodation for homeless children. It should only be used in exceptional circumstances. Right now, it is increasingly being used as ‘the norm’ because of a severe lack of purpose built temporary accommodation for families. I am genuinely concerned about child protection issues, safety issues, security issues s well as the range of developmental impacts as set out briefly above.
Minister, has TUSLA been involved in assessing the suitability of hotels /hostels that are housing families with children? If so, have they determined that some forms of accommodation are unsuitable? Who determines whether there may be child protection risks?
Are individuals working in hotels where homeless children are placed Garda vetted? If not, why not? I appreciate Minister that hotel staff are not normally vetted but the placing of children in hotels as a formal State intervention to the homelessness crisis changes the said hotel’s official usage. The children are living there, playing there, growing up there. On this basis, they could be a place of interest to predators. It is absolutely essential that urgent steps are taken to ensure all children in emergency accommodation are safe.
In other jurisdictions, with similar homelessness levels, emergency accommodation is used as an exception and then for no more than six weeks. How many children have lived in emergency accommodation for more than six weeks and Minister do you agree that this is unacceptable?
Are wraparound services available for all families in emergency accommodation, and what steps are being taken to work with families to help them secure and keep a tenancy elsewhere?
Minister have officials from your department been assigned to inspect emergency accommodation and its suitability for children on an ongoing basis? For example, to assess the safety and security of shared and communal areas and the availability of safe spaces to play.
Have you made any requirements of providers of emergency accommodation to make the accommodation suitable places for children? Has TUSLA been involved in advising on suitability?
Finally, I have a few questions concerning the new modular housing project for Dublin:
- Will the design of modular housing reflect the fact that it is to be purpose built accommodation for homeless families?
- Will the design meet the needs of children, and will there be sufficient space for children to play?
- Will TUSLA and other organisations be consulted on the design of this accommodation, and if so, when?