Wednesday, 9 November 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Minister of State for coming here today to discuss this all important issue. My question is to ask him to make a statement regarding supports for tenants given notice to quit. This applies especially to those in long-term rental, and who have been there for four, five or six years. Many landlords have decided to leave the rental market as we are very aware. It is a huge issue. We have almost 4,000 people on our waiting list in Limerick, and up to now people like that had no other choice but to try to get somewhere else, or else go on the housing waiting list. Will the Minister of State outline what supports are intended or have been introduced in recent times to support these tenants? Many people are not aware of their rights and they may not have the best relationship with the landlord. In many cases the house is genuinely being sold but in some cases people are using that as an excuse. I am asking if there are any supports for people in that situation.
I thank Senator Byrne for raising this, which is a very important and pressing issue in society. It is true to say we are seeing an increase in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation and the situation is proving very challenging. The Government, local authorities and those in the NGO sector are making every effort to prevent and protect those at risk of homelessness. Resources and funding are not an obstacle to the urgent efforts required. Budget 2023 provided more than €215 million, which is an increase of 10% on 2022, for delivery of homeless services. This will ensure that local authorities can not only provide emergency accommodation, but importantly homeless prevention measures too. It will also ensure they can support households to successfully exit homelessness into secure tenancies.
Cognisant of the risk of homelessness faced by renters this coming winter, the Government recently legislated to protect them by deferring any no fault tenancy terminations from taking place over the coming months. Analysis suggests this could prevent more than 2,000 tenancies being terminated. This emergency measure is necessary and will provide assistance in the short term. However, over the long term the answer remains an increased and sustainable supply of new housing.
We will be adding significant social housing to our stock in 2022. The quarter 2 construction status report shows 8,247 social homes on site, an additional 12,327 homes at design and tender stage, and a further 118 new construction schemes, comprising 1,647 homes, were added to the future pipeline. Looking to next year, State investment of €4.5 billion is in place to deliver a record 11,830 social homes, including 9,100 new builds, in 2023. Supply as a whole is increasing. Almost 28,000 new homes were completed in the 12 months to the end of September, which is the highest rolling 12 month total of any comparable period since comparable data were first published in 2011.
In addition to our focus on increasing supply, the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, has introduced a number of measures to help those at risk of homelessness. These include recent changes to the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme to increase the discretion rate to 35% and expand the couple's rate to single persons. This will secure and expand more tenancies and prevent new entries to homelessness. We have also legislated to increase the notice to quit period for no fault evictions. The minimum amount of notice a landlord must give a tenant with a tenancy of less than three years duration before evicting them, has now increased from 28 days to three months. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, has also made it clear to local authorities that where there is a risk of a tenant being evicted into homelessness, as a result of a landlord selling the home that the local authority will be supported to purchase the home, should that be appropriate.
The delivery of cost-rental homes is also a key affordability measure under Housing for All, with State backed rents in the order of 25% below what they would be on the private market. Some 900 cost-rental homes have been approved in just over a year since this new rental offer was legislated for. In 2023 a further 1,850 cost-rental homes are to be delivered. The Government's ambition to deliver cost-rental homes at scale will transform the rental market, providing tenants with secure tenancies in sustainable, long-term homes.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. It is welcome that the HAP rate has been increased, especially for people in single occupancy because they were finding it really difficult to get a rental property at a rate they could afford.I welcome that. As the saying goes, "A lot done. More to do." I would like assurance from the Minister of State that it will be kept under review to make sure the new system is working.
I assure the Senator that we will continue to monitor all those metrics in the Department. We have a huge challenge in the winter months in terms of the security of tenancies but the fact that the temporary no-fault eviction ban is in place gives us time to increase the supply. That is the key area. We are trying to increase right over our cities and rural areas the supply of housing, which is the only answer. Bans are not an answer in trying to ensure people get sustainable tenancies. We have a small window in which to increase that scale and especially emergency accommodation provision, which we are working on. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, made a statement on the numbers he expects over the next two quarters. That will alleviate things when the ban terminates. We are working with the increase to 35% in HAP. The figure of €215 million is an increase of 10% on last year in terms of supporting homelessness with our NGOs. We will continue to do that at pace.