Rent supplement rise a ‘stay of execution’

by Gazette Reporter
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TO ASSIST those in privately rented homes who are at risk of becoming homeless, the Department of Social Welfare has recently announced a 13-week increase in the rent supplement payment.
Deputy Alan Farrell (FG) is delighted with the news. He said: “Having represented many constituents facing the dire and extremely stressful scenario of becoming homeless, I am glad that this measure is being introduced.
“Providing this support to those who need it is of the utmost importance. While this is a positive short-term development, I will continue to work to secure further support for those struggling to pay their rents and to bring the rent crisis in Fingal under control.
“I hope this initiative will provide those affected with the relief and support they need to find an acceptable solution which keeps them, and their families, in a home,” he said.
However, while she welcomed the announcement, Socialist Party TD for Dublin West Ruth Coppinger said that the measure is not enough.
She said: “The proposed 13-week increase in rent limits for those in receipt of the rent supplement is welcome, but does not go anywhere close to being a solution to the housing crisis.
“While the increase will hopefully stop some families being made homeless immediately, all it really amounts to is a stay of execution, because it does nothing to tackle the cause of the problem.
“It is, finally, acknowledged by Minister [for Social Protection Joan] Burton that there is a housing crisis.
“The housing crisis was one of the biggest issues raised during the recent elections, and has seen the emergence of housing action campaigns across the country – including in the minister’s own constituency.
“Unfortunately, what she is putting forward is a sticking plaster solution, while the minister continues to pass the buck on tackling the root causes of the problem.
“What is immediately needed is rent controls to burst this rent bubble and stop families being made homeless. As rents accelerate, the supplement and allowance has been cut. Immediately, these cuts need to be reversed,” said Deputy Coppinger.
In response, Minister Burton said: “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.
“Despite pressures on the social protection budget, the last review saw rent limits increase, in line with market rents in some areas, with Dublin limits increasing by a weighted average of 9%.
“Policy in relation to implementing rent controls on the amounts landlords can charge is a matter for my colleague [Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan] in the Department of the Environment.
“I can assure deputies that department officials will continue to make every effort to ensure that customer 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,” said Minister Burton.

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