The lowest number of properties available to rent through the Housing Assistant Payment Scheme has been recorded by the Simon Communities, with just 29 HAP rentals available over a three-day period last month.

It signifies the lowest proportion of properties within HAP rates at 4.3% in March this year, compared to 10.8% in March 2022.

The charity's latest Locked Out of the Market report examines the experience of people who are on low incomes and dependent on HAP to access housing in the private rental market.

The latest report considered the availability of properties within both the standard and discretionary HAP limits in 16 areas around the country for four household categories: single person, couple, couple/one parent and one child and couple/one parent and two children.

For the second time since 2015, there were no properties available within a standard HAP rate across the four household types.

The report found that 672 properties were available to rent at any price within the 16 areas over the three dates surveyed last month.

This was an 11% (85 properties) decrease from the 757 available in the December 2022 Locked Out report.

The report found 70% (472) of properties available to rent at any price were located within the three Dublin areas studied.

Portlaoise had the lowest number of homes available to rent with just three properties available over the three days.

Limerick City Centre and Limerick City suburbs had four properties available in each area.

Twelve of the 16 study areas experienced a decrease in the availability of properties to rent, with the exception of Athlone, Galway City suburbs, Sligo town, and Portlaoise.

Eleven of the 16 areas had no HAP properties available to rent in any household category within standard or discretionary limits.

These were Athlone, Cork City centre, Cork City suburbs, Galway City centre, Galway City suburbs, Co Leitrim, Limerick City suburbs, Limerick City Centre, Sligo town, Portlaoise, and Waterford.

Dundalk and Kildare were the only areas outside of Dublin to have properties affordable under discretionary HAP rates.

Single person households received an increased HAP rate to match what was available to couples in June 2022. The report found eight properties within discretionary HAP rates for both single people and couples.

Fourteen properties were available within the discretionary HAP rate for families with one child. These, plus an additional seven were available for families with two children under a discretionary HAP rate.

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Read more: 'I am going to die a homeless man'

As seen in many recent Locked Out of the Market reports, the supply of properties within HAP limits were predominantly available in Dublin; 21 (72.4%) of the total 29 HAP properties were found in the three Dublin areas examined.

Dublin has a discretionary HAP rate of 50% compared to 35% for the rest of the country.

Wayne Stanley, Executive Director at the Simon Communities of Ireland, described the findings as "particularly stark".

He has called on the Government to consider reversing their decision to lift the eviction ban.

"Keeping the ban in place would give the Government time. With that time, we propose that they embed the tenant-in-situ scheme and implement the Simon Bill.

"This is a homeless prevention measure that targets families and individuals in the rental market who are at risk of homelessness from eviction.

"Enacting this Bill would prevent the need for widespread eviction bans in the future and enable protections for those more vulnerable to housing insecurity."

Speaking in Wicklow today, Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said the report proved that "there is a very constrained rental market".

Leo Varadkar and Darragh O'Brien in Wicklow today (Pic:

Defending the ending of the eviction ban, he said: "The reason the Government took the difficult decision that we have over the last couple of weeks, is not to make that any worse.

"In the short term, there was no one saying that the eviction moratorium should not end, what the discussion was about was those who wanted to extend it further, to the end of this year, and then indeed into next year, and what would that do for supply?" Mr O'Brien said

He said that already in March, about 750 new HAP tenancies had been created and said there had been 2,000 of them so far this year.

The minister said local authorities had been clearly instructed to purchase homes where tenants had been served notice to quit and where a landlord would let them remain in situ during a sale.

"We're seeing that ramped up and we've other safety nets in place also, such as the new cost rental backstop," he added.

"That's for people above the social housing limits."

He was speaking in Delgany, where the Land Development Agency is in the process of delivering 142 cost-rental homes at a development called Archers Wood.

Archers Wood in Delgany

The LDA said it was on course to deliver 5,000 such cost rental or affordable purchase housing by the end of 2026.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this model was "exactly the kind of model we want to see more of around the country" with a mix of development.

Minister O'Brien said the cost rental model did not exist 18 months ago and said that now 1,000 such tenancies had been approved.

The monthly rent for a two-bedroom property in the development costs around €1,455.

Twenty-four people are already renting in Archers Wood, according to the LDA, while a further 24 applications are under way for the second phase.