Subsidised Households are most likely to be “driven into poverty.”

Alex Cunningham

55.9% of subsidised households are currently living under the poverty line after housing costs, a new report by Social Justice Ireland (SJI) confirms.

The report by SJI, entitled Housing and Poverty 2022 was published on Monday and features information from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which found that subsidised households are most likely to be “driven into poverty.”

SJI believes these households are at risk due to the increasingly prominent use of subsidies like the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Subsidies, grants that leave tenants at the discretion of their landlords.

“The increasing use of the private rented sector to provide social housing supports means that more households will be driven into poverty to cover basic housing costs, rather than being provided with necessary basics,” the report stated.

HAP was intended to be a long-term solution to the housing crisis but figures from the CSO showed that of the 80,827 HAP tenancies commenced between 2016 and 2020, 26% failed.

Housing subsidies are not the only issues when it comes to social housing in the state, SJI notes. There are 61,880 households on social housing waiting lists, with another 59,821 receiving HAP.

SJI notes that this figure of roughly 122,000 does not take into account households where domestic abuse is prevalent, households in direct provision, and households in overcrowded and unsuitable situations.

The government’s Housing for All strategy has pledged 90,000 social homes by 2030, with 47,500 to be delivered by 2026 through guaranteed funding.

SJI worries that the remaining 42,500 homes will be delivered through “Schemes that rely on the private rented sector”, such as HAP.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien disputed this. “This is incorrect, the focus of the plan is on putting bricks and mortar in the ground.

“The 90,000 social homes committed to under Housing for All are new build homes.”

Members of both Sinn Féin and The Social Democrats have publicly criticised the Housing for All plan, citing a lack of affordable housing and the prioritisation of large developers over ordinary people.

SJI asks the government to “emulate our European Peers” in terms of social housing infrastructure and proposes that the “Government set a target of 20 per cent of all housing stock in Ireland to be social housing.”

The think tank set out multiple other proposals to combat poverty in Ireland, such as the suggestion to establish a Housing Committee and to ban the sale of any State land suitable for housing.