Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Threshold warns of Ireland's new slum danger

The Government must prevent the creation of modern-day slums by radically improving living conditions in private rental accommodation, it was recently claimed .

Housing charity Threshold said its 2004 Annual Report, launched in Dublin, showed the number of calls from people living in unfit accommodation had risen by more than a third last year.
Conditions people were reporting included problems with hot and cold running water, mould growing on walls, vermin infestations and living in windowless rooms, the charity said. Threshold also claimed local authorities were failing in their duty to inspect privately-rented accommodation, with only 7,232 of an estimated 150,000 dwellings checked by inspectors.

According to the report, almost 30% of inspected properties were found to be falling below minimum standards, but legal action was only taken in four cases. Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold, said the wrong message was being sent out to landlords and called for local authorities to step up inspections, prosecute more cases and name and shame those found guilty of breaches of the law.
“The introduction of the new Residential Tenancies Act last year has greatly improved tenants rights in the private rented sector,” she said.“But the Government must now copper-fasten this progress by tackling the quality of accommodation, particularly at the lower end of the market.“It is totally unacceptable that people are forced to live in windowless flats, sleep in bedrooms covered in mildew or make do without hot running water.“We also have to ask is it acceptable that in this day and age people are expected to live in one room with a toilet opening off it, and that room is their kitchen, living room, dining room and their bedroom?”Ms Hayden called for the Government to ensure existing standards were enforced and to also introduce new standards which reflected current accepted living standards.

Sh also warned that the introduction of apartment-style living in inner cities did not cater for families who were being housed in them. Much of the accommodation was being let to rent supplement tenants which resulted in high concentrations of poverty, she said. “Too few apartments are designed with children in mind – living spaces are cramped with no play or study areas and often there is nowhere to dry clothes or to store children’s toys and bikes. “Unfortunately while we are following a European model of apartment dwelling, we are not following the standards of amenities that make communal living possible,” she said.“The Government needs to act urgently to make sure we are not putting in place slum clearance programmes like the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s in the Ireland of 2010,” she said.

Threshold saw an increase in use of its services last year, with a total of 20,601 people coming to the charity for help.The return of deposits was a growing problem for tenants, and advice workers dealt with 44% more cases last year than in 2003.The number of calls about illegal evictions also grew by 41% to 271 cases.But Threshold’s Access Unit – which helps homeless people into rented accommodation – completed its second successful year, helping 127 people, including children, into a home.

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