Locked out of the Market Report – For HAP tenants, the new normal is the old normal

Posted on Friday, 4 February 2022
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Many changes have taken place within the private rental market over the last 2 years. The travel restrictions in place resulted in many short term lets converting to longer term lets. The difficulties many renters had as a result of stay at home orders and reductions in income saw rent freezes and moratoriums on evictions enacted. However, the latest Locked Out of the Market Report from the Simon Communities of Ireland finds that since “the easing of restrictions since April 2021…...there has been a sharp contraction in supply, further exacerbating a chronic lack of affordable private rental accommodation, just as it had been before the Covid period.”



Locked Out of the Market is a quarterly report published by the Simon Communities of Ireland based on a snapshot survey conducted over three consecutive days. The latest version, published in January 2022, covers three days in December 2021 and uses data from Daft.ie (an Irish property website that lists the asking prices for properties to both rental and buy) to track the number of properties advertised to rent that fall within Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) limits.

They found there were just 1,349 properties available to rent at any price within the 16 areas over the three dates surveyed. This compares to 3,019 properties for the same period in the previous year and an increase of 33 per cent on the number available in October 2021 ( 1,017). 79 per cent of all properties are to be found in the Dublin area.

Of the total number of properties available to rent, only 11 per cent (148) were available within the standard or discretionary HAP limit in at least one of the four categories1. This is a drop from 1,160 properties available in this category from the same period last year and a 22 per cent decrease from the previous Report in October 2021. Five of the 16 areas surveyed had no properties available for HAP tenants (Galway City Suburbs ,Limerick City Centre, Sligo Town, and Athlone).

All household types finding it difficult to secure accommodation 

For single-person households, just 2 properties (the Report refers to one-bedroom units) were within standard HAP limits across the 16 areas surveyed. When the discretionary increases to the HAP limits were applied2, a further 6 properties match the availability criteria. To put this in context, over half of all households on the social housing waiting lists in 20203 were single-person households (32,204, 52 per cent).

For a couple with no children, 48 properties (one-bedroom units) were within discretionary limits with the majority of these properties to be found in Dublin. This means that only 10 per cent of all available properties are within the reach of a couple renting with the support of HAP. In 2020, there was a reported 2,802 couple households on the social housing waiting lists.

For a couple or lone parent with one child, 5 properties (2-bedroom units) were available within standard HAP limits with a further mere 32 properties becoming within reach when the discretionary extra was applied. That meant that just 2 per cent of the total properties were available within either HAP limit to this family type, compared to 18.8 per cent for the same period in the previous year. In 2020, there was a reported 15,068 single-parent households on the social housing waiting lists.

For households consisting of a couple or lone parent with two children, there were just 2 properties (2 bedrooms or more) available within the standard HAP limit and a further 32 properties available within the discretionary HAP limits, compared with 14 and 662 for the same period for the previous year, respectively. For these family types, again only 2 per cent of all available properties were within the reach of their HAP allowance.

Social Housing, not Social Housing Supports

The Housing Assistance Payment is not delivering as a form of social housing support. It is not providing choice, security or affordability. The lack of availability means that either the tenant or Local Authority ends up paying more than expected, or allowed for, within their respective budgets. For those who cannot make up that difference, homelessness is the most likely outcome. 

Our recent policy brief, Housing and Poverty found that “the poverty rate among households in receipt of housing subsidies is 22.7 per cent before they make any rent payments. After these payments have been made, that rate increases to 55.9 per cent. Clearly subsidies are not working, when the rents household must pay are driving them into poverty at this rate.”

The private rented sector is not the solution to a public housing crisis. The provision of social housing must be prioritised and must be moved from "social housing solutions", which include private rental subsidies, to social housing provision with homes provided by Local Authorities or properly regulated Approved Housing Bodies. Difficulties experienced by tenants of social housing developments are not a result of the houses, or the people, but of a lack of proper planning, adequate services and opportunities for employment. Once the social structures are in place, any tenure - whether mixed or unitary - could thrive.

Rather than providing long-term social housing to households most in need, the Housing Assistance Payment is a subsidy to the private rented sector. We need to rethink our relationship with housing, particularly as part of our new Social Contract with the State. Social Justice Ireland again calls on Government to put a social housing target in place of 20 per cent of all housing stock by the year 2030.

1 Single person; Couple; Couple/One Parent and One Child; and Couple/One Parent and Two Children.

2 Local Authorities have flexibility of up to 20%, on a case-by-case basis, where a household cannot find suitable accommodation within the stated limits. Local Authorities in the Dublin area have the discretion to increase the standard HAP rate by up to an additional 50 per cent for eligible homeless households in the Dublin region (Homeless HAP).

3 https://www.housingagency.ie/sites/default/files/2021-03/SSHA-2020.pdf