Landlord paid €620,000 in rent subsidies
One landlord received €620,000 from the State in the form of rent supplement payments last year.
The rental subsidy is typically paid to people on low incomes or on social welfare who cannot afford to pay the full cost of their rent, and is passed on to the property owner.
New figures released to The Irish Times show the top 20 earning landlords received €200,000-€620,000 under the rent supplement scheme during 2011. The average payment during 2011 was €5,220.
The economic downturn and a shortage in local authority accommodation has resulted in a surge in the number of people seeking rent supplement payments over recent years.
The numbers increased from about 60,000 in 2007 to 97,000 last year, an increase of more than 60 per cent.
The Government has cut the cost of the rent supplement bill recently by increasing the minimum contribution by tenants – now €30 per week for a single person – and putting in stricter caps on the amount of rent payable in different regions.
The rent supplement bill hit a record €516 million in 2010, but fell to €502 million last year. It is projected to cost about €450 million this year.
The size of payments for the top-earning owners suggests some landlords received rent supplement in respect of between 50 and 120 properties.
The move has prompted calls for the Department of Social Protection to arrange deals with individual landlords, given that the State is providing them with significant sums of guaranteed rental income.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said there was no contractual relationship between the department and landlords, as tenants sourced their own accommodation.
To ensure value for money for the taxpayer, she added, the department had set maximum rent limits.
Despite these limits, housing groups report that many tenants are being asked to pay “top-up” payments to landlords for rent that is above the maximum allowance limit.
“We have first-hand evidence that rent supplement reductions are causing homelessness,” said Threshold’s director Bob Jordan.