The latest data from the Central Statistical Office indicates that 13.2% of the population, that is, more than 660 thousand people, is at risk of poverty.
When rent payments and mortgage interest are taken into account, that number jumps to 952,185 — roughly one in five of the population.
The impact is particularly severe on children, with more than 93,000 children living in households at risk of poverty when rent costs and mortgage interest are factored in, bringing the total to nearly 300,000 children.
It will come as no surprise to most renters that the escalating cost of rent in the past decade has had a significant impact on their poverty risk.
Of the more than 1.4 million people living in rented or rent-free housing in 2020, nearly one in three – or about 400,000 people – were at risk of poverty, compared to just 7.1% of those living in owner-occupied homes (just over Just about that (250,000 people).
When the cost of rent or mortgage interest is taken into account, the rate of poverty risk among renters jumps from 27.6% to a staggering 44.7% – more than two in five.
This amounts to approximately 250,000 additional people, bringing the total number of tenants at risk of poverty to 645,160 when the cost of rent is included.
Single parent households are most at risk of poverty, with more than three in ten living below the poverty line.
However, once housing costs are factored in, half of all single-parent households are at risk of poverty.
This compares to just over 17% of two-parent households.
As the Irish population increasingly lives in the private rental sector or makes mortgage payments on their homes into their post-retirement age, it is unfortunately not surprising that the rate of seniors (aged 65 and over) living below the poverty line has risen from 15.8% to 25.4% – more than one in four.
Because of housing costs, nearly 60,000 people aged 65 and over live below the poverty line.
The wage work must provide a decent standard of living.
However, in 2020, more than 130,000 people with jobs were living in poverty.
Another 73,000 people with jobs are pushed into poverty once they pay for the roof over their heads.
For more than 200,000 people in Ireland, the job offers no guarantee of even a basic standard of living.
The difference in housing costs in urban versus rural areas is also evident in the most recent data. Altogether, 13.5% of the urban population lives below the poverty line compared to 12.5% in rural areas.
However, once you factor in the cost of providing a roof over your head, the urban poverty rate rises to more than 20%, compared to an increase to 16.4% in rural areas.
Providing a home for you and your family should not push you into poverty.
Addressing the affordability of a home, whether it’s in rent or mortgage payments, should be a major priority for the government. To do this, the government introduced the Affordable Housing Act this year.
However, this law continues to rely heavily on demand-side subsidies that only increase home prices, rather than making them truly affordable.
Artificially increasing a buyer’s ability to purchase a home through a common equity system does not make that home affordable. It maintains a profit-driven market at the expense of buyers.
Furthermore, the Common Ownership Scheme targets the same profile as the previous Government Assistance Purchase Program – first-time buyers who purchase newly built real estate.
The Help to Buy program has been demonstrated, not only by Social Justice Ireland, but by the Parliamentary Budget Office to disproportionately benefit high income earners and maintain high property prices.
We also need to increase the supply of new homes by an estimated 27,000 to 35,000 annually to account for new household formation and pent-up demand.
Of course, increasing the housing supply will not, by itself, solve the housing crisis or make housing more affordable.
An increase in supply does not necessarily mean a decrease in prices. The offer must be at the right price.
The wide availability of cheap credit has been more closely correlated with affordability and house price increases than has been suggested by commentators in both Ireland and the UK.
Strong credit regulation, providing the right homes in the right location at the right price, supporting tackling the inequalities inherent in a housing system that sees more supply in conveyor belts rather than where housing is actually needed – in cities, and if in rural areas it is Development is a priority in rural cities.
Priority should be given to providing social housing with homes provided by local authorities or approved housing authorities.
This will free up real estate in the private sector leased for use by families who want to rent it from the private sector at an affordable price, and provide long-term and sustainable social housing for social housing tenants.
Ireland has suffered from an ongoing housing crisis for more than a decade.
A crisis is pushing many who are fortunate enough to have homes into poverty. This cannot be ignored anymore.
- Colette Bennett is an economic and social analyst at Social Justice Ireland