NOVAS respondes to budget 2023 announcements
NOVAS welcome the ‘Cost of Living’ budget, introduced by government this afternoon, Tuesday 27th of October. Once-off measures including additional payments for people in receipt of social welfare and support towards energy bills will help households who are struggling the most. Increases to the fuel allowance, additional needs allowance and working family payments will also support people on the margins this winter, including many of the clients and tenants that NOVAS work with.
We warmly welcome the tax on vacant properties as part of budget 2023. This measure is directed at increasing availability of housing and maximising the potential of our existing built environment. This is an important addition to accessing existing property in terms of reducing environmental impact as well as increasing our supply of housing. The use of vacant properties in our towns and cities, often situated above retail property, has the potential to house single homeless people, through models such as Housing First. Considering the length of time single people spend homeless, this is a very welcome development.
However, more targeted interventions are required to tackle the unprecedented housing and homeless crisis. With an exodus of landlords from the market and a subsequent rise in evictions-to-sell, the budget provides few incentives to keep such landlords in the market. Una Burns, Head of Policy and Communications noted that, ‘last year some 75% of exits from homelessness were via the private rented market. It is a vital valve to alleviate pressures on homeless services and provide exit pathways for people experiencing homelessness, but access to the market is increasingly precarious with contracting supply and rising rents’. Until more social and affordable homes and cost rental properties come on stream, we are very dependent on the private rented market. She continued to say that, ‘we are disappointed with the levels of support offered to both renters and landlords in this regard’.
While a tax credit to renters to the tune of €500 per annum is helpful to people who do not receive rent supports, it does not consider the large top-ups many renters in receipt of HAP are forced to pay, as the gulf between HAP rates and actual cost of renting grows. On this point, additional increases in HAP payments, while not a long-term solution, would have enabled low-income households to compete more equitably for scare rental property.
This budget combined with the Housing for All plan introduced last year signals a committment by government to substantially increase the supply of social and affrodable housing. This is positive, however, until this supply comes on stream, we must protect existing supply in the private rented market as homeless figures reach unprecendented levels.