A million Irish people at risk of poverty as 'housing subsidies are not working' - Social Justice Ireland

Almost one fifth (19%) of the population is living below the poverty line when housing costs are factored in, with an extra 300,000 people forced into poverty in the past year, according to latest research from Social Justice Ireland (SJI).

In a paper on Housing and Poverty 2022, which analyses the impact of housing costs on the poverty rates of various household types, SJI found that one million people are now at risk of living in poverty when their housing costs are factored in.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said the findings of this study “can’t help but shock you”, while Solidarity-PBP’s Paul Murphy said it was an “indictment of Government policy”.

SJI said its research highlights that, far from helping families to escape poverty, inadequate government housing subsidies are driving greater numbers into the poverty trap.

When a household in receipt of housing subsidies has paid its rent, the poverty risk for these households is two-and-a-half times greater, according to the study.

The study uses the criteria for poverty first set out in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy in 1997 and data collated by the CSO.

People are defined as living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living that is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally.

Renters are the worst affected according to SJI, with 44.7% at risk of poverty after housing payments.

Lone parents are the worst affected of all household types, with half of people in this category living below the poverty line after housing payments.

For those in receipt of rent subsidies, such as Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), the poverty rate increases from 22.7% pre-rent payment to 55.9% after rent.

Colette Bennett, economic and social analyst at SJI, said her organisation had for years argued that housing subsidies such as HAP and the rental accommodation scheme “did not work”.

"This latest study provides further proof of that,” she said. “Clearly subsidies are not working, when the rents households must pay are driving them into poverty at this rate.”

Ms Bennett said it was essential that the Government increase spending on building social homes instead of relying on a “dysfunctional private rented sector”.

Social Justice Ireland makes a number of recommendations to address the issues facing households when it comes to housing costs. These include:

  •  Setting a target of 20% of all housing stock to be social housing;
  • Allowing local authorities and approved housing bodies pool resources to finance increased supply in a sustainable way;
  • Developing a system of affordable rent;
  • Enforcing the vacant site levy.

Labour’s Duncan Smith said these findings would not be a surprise for people in generation rent. “The housing measures that have been brought in aren’t making a difference. On top of that, you have heating costs and people can’t get by. And these people are working. It’s a huge crisis.” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane said the findings weren’t “surprising” given the current cost of rent continues to increase. “Once housing costs are paid little is left over for other weekly expenses like food and bills, which are also on the rise,” she said.

“The cost of living crisis on top of this poverty data makes for a worrying situation … Any social protection system should at the very least protect those who rely on it from poverty —ours does not.”

Solidarity-People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy said: “It shows a huge disconnect between GDP figures and people’s lived reality.



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