Wednesday, 19 July 2023.

Home Truths: Single Homelessness in the Southwest reports very high rates of single adults in emergency accommodation across Cork and Kerry, and their very low chances of exiting emergency accommodation to a tenancy. Among the tiny minority fortunate enough to exit to a tenancy last year, two out of five did so through the private rental market with the help of a housing support payment such as HAP.

While exiting homelessness to any type of tenancy is a welcome step forward, the reliance on the private rental market, especially for vulnerable people, brings another set of problems, as we explored in past Home Truths posts. From lack of supply to insecurity of tenure to high risk of poverty, the private rental market is precarious.

Two recent research reports provide further concerning insights into the effects of the private rental market on renter’s lives.

Threshold’s annual tenant sentiment survey for 2022 reiterates how unaffordable and insecure the private rental market has become.

The survey found almost half of renters surveyed - a record high level - feel insecure in their accommodation. The survey also reported that half of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent and almost one in five spend over half their income on rent.

Another report, recently published by The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)highlights the double disadvantage of housing and healthcare experienced by renters, particularly supported renters, in Ireland.

The ESRI report found that renters have poorer health outcomes than homeowners while people in the supported rental market, such as renters in receipt of HAP, experienced the worst health outcomes. Coupled with this, the report found low levels of medical card coverage, and rising rent and healthcare costs, puts many renters at significant risk financially in the event of a health emergency.

Combined findings from these two recent reports paint a stressful picture for many renters. They highlight ongoing financial strain due to high rents as well as additional and significant financial risk in the event of ill-health, especially for supported renters, plus ongoing psychological strain for increasing numbers of renters due to insecurity of tenure. While a move from homelessness to a tenancy in any tenure type is a step forward, moving to a private rental tenancy carries real financial and security risks; homelessness remains a real risk.

Single unit, social and affordable housing, delivered on a large scale, is urgently needed to address the homeless and housing crisis and to enable people to live their lives.

The recently announced development of 1,325 residential units - half of which are to be one-bedroomed - on the south dock by O’Callaghan Properties is an example of the scale and proportion of single unit accommodation needed.

Public building of one-bedroomed homes on a similar scale and proportion will have a positive impact on preventing single adults from being pushed into homelessness in the first place and on making sure those already stuck in emergency accommodation have a viable way out.

Our Home Truths series aims to offer insights into different aspects and experiences of homelessness in the Southwest, drawing on publicly available data and supported by the personal experiences of Cork Simon service users.