To ask the Minister for Social Protection the arrangements in place to enable persons who are in danger of homelessness to access increased levels of rent supplement.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 10th June, 2014.
R E P L Y
The Government has provided over €344 million for the rent supplement scheme in 2014, the purpose of which is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources. There are currently approximately 76,000 rent supplement recipients, of which over 50,000 have been in payment for more than 18 months.
A review of the maximum rent limits has commenced within the Department and will be considered as part of the budgetary process. The most recent review was completed in June 2013 with revised rent limits introduced on 17 June 2013. Despite pressures on the social protection budget, the last review saw rent limits increase in line with market rents in some areas, including Dublin and Galway, with Dublin limits increasing by a weighted average of 9%.
All prospective tenants, including those seeking to access rent supplement, particularly in urban areas, are now finding it increasingly difficult to secure appropriate accommodation due to the reduced availability of rental properties. Policy in relation to implementing rent controls on the amounts landlords can charge is a matter for my colleague in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
I can assure Deputies that Department officials have considerable experience in dealing with customers of the scheme and will continue to make every effort to ensure that their accommodation needs are met. Staff in the Department’s Community Welfare Service have discretionary powers to award a supplement for rental purposes in exceptional cases where it appears that the circumstances of the case so warrant, for example, when dealing with applicants who are homeless or who are at risk of losing their tenancy. Such cases are examined on a case by case basis having regard to the situation presented. Statistics are not maintained on the number of applications seeking payments over the maximum limits or their outcome.
In view of the current supply difficulties, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive in conjunction with Dublin local authorities and voluntary organisations have agreed with the Department a protocol so that families at risk of losing existing private rented accommodation can have more timely and appropriate interventions made on their behalf. Cases will be assessed on an individual basis having regard to the individual circumstances and families requiring additional support will receive the necessary assistance from the Department, including financial support as necessary. The necessary operational arrangements are currently being put in place and it is expected that the initiative will be launched on 16 June 2014. The number of families that will require assistance under this arrangement is not known at present but will be monitored following its rollout.
Officials in the Department are continuing to engage with those in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in progressing the transfer of customers with long term housing needs from this Department to the local authorities under the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).