Cuts in rent supplement could make more people homeless, groups warn


FURTHER CUTS in December’s budget to rent supplement payments could drive more people into homelessness, it has been claimed.

In its pre-budget submission, MakeRoom, the campaign alliance of Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities of Ireland, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and Threshold, said the Government should resist the temptation to cut the payments further.

The amount of money the State pays in rent supplements has increased by nearly €100 million since the start of the recession – from €392 million in 2007 to a likely €490 million this year.

The number of people claiming the payment has increased from 60,000 to 90,000 in the same period.

The Government has already cut the maximum amount payable under the scheme by up to 10 per cent. The maximum payments are €122 a week for a single person to €256.12 weekly for a couple with two or more children living in Dublin.

The Government has also increased the personal contribution of each claimant from €14 to €24 per week. It justified the cuts on the basis that rents were going down elsewhere.

However, Focus Ireland policy analyst Eoin O’Broin said the reductions in rent were occurring in the medium and higher end of the market and there was “no evidence” to suggest that such falls were happening in the lower end.

He said there was a mistaken perception that rent supplement payments were paid directly to private landlords and it would therefore be politically popular to cut them again.

In fact, it is the social welfare recipient who receives the payment. Many tenants on rent supplements are in legally binding contracts with their landlords and if their payments are reduced, they have to make up the difference themselves, he explained.

“None of the charities involved in MakeRoom would have a problem with the Government introducing some mechanism to negotiate directly with landlords to lower the rent.”

He also called for the Government to buy social housing during the downturn, which would save the State millions in rent supplement payments in the future.

MakeRoom spokeswoman Aideen Hayden said further cuts in rent supplements would affect vulnerable people and families who are already struggling with successive cuts in the rent supplement.

“There is widespread public sympathy for people who are unable to keep up with their mortgage payments, and we share these concerns but believe that they need to be widened to those people who rent their homes and risk losing them due to recession. Losing your home is a disaster whether you own it or rent it,” she said.