NOVAS responds to Budget 2024

NOVAS welcome many measures in Budget 2024 but have concerns with lack of targeted plans to address the unprecedented housing and homeless crisis.  

This afternoon, Tuesday 10th of October, the government announced its budget, seeking to address the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, child poverty and the protracted housing and homeless emergency. While there have been many welcome measures including specific incentives and protections relating to the private rented sector and ring-fenced funding for treatment and other health measures for homeless people, there is no increase in HAP payments and no explicit additional funding for existing homeless services. 

Today the government announced additional tax relief for small landlords, who commit to staying in the market until 2028. Simultaneously, tax credits for renters have increased from €500 to €750. NOVAS’ CEO, Una Deasy welcomes both of the measures as a means of ‘stabilising the market, while also seeking to address the financial burden for renters’, however, she noted that ‘it would have been desirable if the tax credits were attached to conditions relating to security of tenure and better standards of accommodation, as suggested in NOVAS’ pre-budget submission.’ ‘In the last year alone, there has been a reduction of 15,000 tenancies in the private rented market and these limited interventions, while welcome, will do little to address the shortfall.’ 

While increased tax credits for renters 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, while social housing supply is ramped up. Topping up HAP payments has become a sector-wide norm and pushes low-income households into further poverty.  

NOVAS welcome once-off social welfare measures in Budget 2024, particularly additional supports aimed at ending Child Poverty, including a double payment in universal child benefit, the extension of child benefit to children over 18 in full-time education as well as targeted additional payments for children and households with additional needs and at greater risk of poverty. Deasy noted that these measuress are ‘important steps in addressing child poverty however sustained funding would have been more impactful in breaking the cycle of poverty and more targeted interventions for the almost 4,000 children who are currently homeless was essential to mitigating the trauma these children experience on a daily basis’. Suggested interventions include ‘assigning dedicated child support workers, support in accessing school and other vital services for children in homeless accommodation and a commitment to reduce the length of time families live in emergency homeless accommodation.’ 

While it was heartening to learn that the government’s housing targets for the year are likely to be exceeded, it is a missed opportunity that such targets were not upwardly revised considering the worsening homeless crisis.  

We warmly welcome the increased tax on vacant properties as part of Budget 2024. This measure is directed at increasing availability of housing and maximising the potential of our existing built environment. 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. 

This budget signals a commitment by government to substantially increase the supply of social and affordable housing. This is positive, however, until this supply comes on stream, we must protect existing supply in the private rented market and the tenants who live in these properties as homeless figures reach unprecedented levels. We must prevent homelessness occurring in the first instance.