Lone parents among most disadvantaged in Ireland’s housing system
New research has shown that lone parents and their children account for 53 per cent of all homeless families, and are much more likely to experience poor housing than other household types. The report also highlights the disadvantages experienced by young people, migrants, people with disabilities, Travellers and others in the Irish housing system.
“Monitoring Adequate Housing in Ireland”, published today by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has implications for policy responses post-pandemic.
The right to adequate housing is a key element of international human rights agreements that Ireland has signed up to. The report looks at six dimensions of housing adequacy - accessibility, affordability, security of tenure, cultural adequacy, quality, and location. It develops a tool to monitor adequate housing, by identifying indicators for measuring progress. It also provides baseline figures on the housing situation of a range of social groups before, or in the early part of, the COVID pandemic.
The research analyses a range of national datasets and included a consultation process with 30 stakeholders representing a wide range of organisations and groups.
Key findings include:
- Lone parents significantly affected: Less than 25 per cent of lone parents reported home-ownership, compared with 70 per cent of total population. Lone parents had higher rates of affordability issues (19 per cent) when compared to the general population (5 per cent) and were particularly vulnerable to housing quality problems such as damp and lack of central heating (32 per cent compared to 22 per cent of total population).
- Overcrowding: Ethnic minority groups had a significantly higher risk of over-crowding. Over 35 per cent of Asian/Asian Irish, 39 per cent of Travellers and over 40 per cent of Black/Black Irish live in over-crowded accommodation, compared to 6 per cent of the total population.
- Migrant impacts: 48% of migrants live in the private rental sector but just 9% of those born in Ireland live in the private rental sector. Migrants, specifically those from Eastern Europe (28 per cent) and non-EU countries (27 per cent), are more likely to live in over-crowded conditions.
- Disability and housing quality: 29 per cent of persons living with a disability experience housing quality issues, when compared to those without a disability (21 per cent). People with a disability are also more likely to report an inability to keep their home warm and arrears on rent or mortgage payments.
- Homelessness: The continuing problem of homelessness highlights a very disadvantaged section of the community for whom the most basic measure of adequate housing as envisaged under international human rights agreements is not being met.
Key challenges identified in the study include:
- COVID and homelessness: There remains a real risk that levels of homelessness will rise following the lifting of pandemic protections and due to the restriction on construction activity which limited housing supply. Homeless figures also exclude those in ‘hidden homeless’ living situations – those staying with friends or family, ‘sofa surfing’, or those who are not interacting with homeless services.
- Rents rising faster than wages: Despite the introduction of Rent Pressure Zones in late 2016, rents have increased by almost 40 per cent in Dublin and 20 per cent elsewhere, since 2007. Rental costs have risen at a faster rate than mean earnings in Dublin and elsewhere. In 2020, mean monthly rent in Ireland was estimated to be 31 per cent of mean monthly earnings.
- Use of private rental accommodation: The policy shift to housing those with housing needs, including at risk groups, in private rental accommodation supported by HAP raises issues around the security and quality of such housing.
- Missing data: Ethnic minorities such as Travellers, and the Black ethnic group face higher discrimination in their search for accommodation, and are at much higher risk of overcrowding and homelessness. However, on most indicators of housing adequacy there is no measure of ethnicity, or refugees and asylum seeker status.
Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“A rights-based approach to housing not only acknowledges that housing is more than bricks and mortar, it combats inequality in housing which this report shows is pervasive across the Irish housing sector.
“Access to adequate housing is a fundamental human right protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elsewhere but this report shows profound barriers to adequate housing among lone parents, people across generations, Travellers and migrants.
“Adequate housing allows people to not only survive but thrive and achieve their full potential, whilst leading to a more just, inclusive and sustainable society.”
Lead author of the report, Helen Russell of the ESRI stated:
“Adequate housing is essential to quality of life. Inadequate housing is associated with poor physical and mental health and restricts people’s ability to participate in education, employment and the community.
“This research provides a framework for monitoring adequate housing in Ireland and highlights key challenges to achieving adequate housing including the lack of housing supply and affordability issues. Security is increasingly important given the growing reliance on the rental sector, but we currently lack appropriate measures of security at the individual level.”
- The study is jointly published by The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute. It is the tenth and final report in a series of publications as part of the Research Programme on Human Rights and Equality
- In March 2021, 5,894 adults were availing of homeless services, including 913 families who had 2,166 dependents. In 2020, there were 61,880 households on the waiting list for social housing and in 2019, there were 91,600+ people in receipt of government benefits to cover housing costs (HAP, Rent Supplement or RAS).
- The right to adequate housing is first mentioned in Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is spelt out in more detail in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.