In an attempt to tackle the housing crisis and rising homelessness in County Wicklow, Sinn Féin had a motion passed at Monday’s Wicklow County Council meeting calling on the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to increase the Rent Supplement rates in Wicklow and to examine the possibility of introducing rent controls in an attempt to stop unfair rent increases which are making people homeless.
Speaking after the meeting on Monday where the latest homeless figures were presented, Councillor John Brady said, “At Mondays meeting we got an update on the homeless situation in Wicklow, this was on foot of a request for the information from myself. The grim figures are no surprise and show a massive increase of homelessness in the County. To date this year 47 individuals have presented as homeless as well as 60 families consisting of 125 children. This is a shocking statistic and a damning indictment of this governments housing policies”.
Cllr Brady continued “One of the main reasons why there is a huge escalation in homeless figures is due to a chronic shortage of social housing and an over reliance on private landlords as part of the governments social housing strategy. Many private landlords are now refusing to accept Rent Supplement or partake in the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) as they can achieve higher rents on the open market. Landlords are ending contracts simply to make more money and as a result making more people homeless. The caps on Rent Supplement are also too restrictive, resulting in most properties being out of reach for people”.
Brady went onto say “Nationally a figure of 1000 homeless children has been given, the fact that 12.5% of those are in Wicklow is a frightening figure. This however shouldn't be news to anyone; two years ago I supported two homeless women who staged a sit in of the council offices in Bray in an attempt to get suitable emergency accommodation for themselves and their young children. They had been made homeless because their landlords had pulled out of the RAS scheme. Thankfully the council in Wicklow has moved away from box ticking and started to put in place more appropriate emergency accommodation for homeless people and families".
Brady concluded “It is crucial however to protect people before they are made homeless. The Sinn Féin motion that was unanimously supported at the council meeting calls on Joan Burton to increase the caps on Rent Supplement to help people stay in their current rental property and open access to others. The motion also calls on the government to look at the possibility of introducing rent regulations. When a family working full time cannot afford to rent in Wicklow, it is clear that the rental market is not fit for purpose and regulation is essential. That must start with stabilising rents. We need action from Alan Kelly and this government and not rehashed statements regurgitating old announcements promising to tackle the housing crisis, statements promising houses that never materialise”.