Crisis in Rent Supplement Contributing to Homelessness

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Dáil Issues, Oral Questions, Social Welfare

Question No:  105 Ref No:  30808/14

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will abolish the rent supplement ceilings which are completely unrealistic in present market conditions, and allow CWOs to sanction appropriate payments based on their experience in the area in order to reduce the numbers of families that are being driven to homelessness.

– Clare Daly.
*  For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 15th July, 2014.

R E P L Y

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation.  There are approximately 76,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided over €344 million for 2014.

I do not intend to abolish the rent supplement maximum rent limits.  However, a review of the maximum rent limits has commenced and will feed into the budgetary process.  This review involves a comprehensive analysis of information from a range of external sources, including the Private Residential Tenancies Board, in addition to seeking the views from a number of stakeholders including staff, relevant Departments and Agencies and non-Government organisations such as Threshold, Focus Ireland and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Prospective tenants, including those seeking to access rent supplement, particularly in urban areas, are finding it increasingly difficult to secure appropriate accommodation due to the reduced availability of rental properties.

The Department has agreed a protocol with the Dublin local authorities and voluntary organisations so that families on rent supplement who are at risk of losing their accommodation can have more timely and appropriate interventions made on their behalf.  A key element of these arrangements is the statutory discretion available to officers, under Article 38 of S.I. 412 of 2007, to award a supplement at a rate higher than the prevailing maximum rent limits where the circumstances of the case so warrant.

I can assure the Deputy that officers administering rent supplement throughout the country have considerable experience in dealing with customers and make every effort to ensure that their accommodation needs are met.  A notice reminding all staff of their statutory discretionary power to award a supplement for rental purposes in exceptional cases, for example, when dealing with applicants who at risk of losing their tenancy, has recently been circulated.