Poorest face 'substandard housing' due to rent caps
CUTS TO rent allowance are forcing the poorest tenants into accommodation that does not meet legal minimum standards, and others into homelessness, housing organisations have said.
In January, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the rent being paid by people on rent supplement was too high in some areas and issued new maximum rents tenants could pay. The personal contribution a tenant would have to make was also increased from €24 per week to €30.
Tenants themselves would have to renegotiate rents with landlords. If they could not achieve lower rents, their supplement would be stopped and they would have to find alternative accommodation.
The department pays about €500 million a year in rent supplement to 97,000 tenants in the private rented sector – about 30 per cent of the households in the sector. The new caps, it estimates, should save €22 million a year.
The new maximum rent for a single person ranges from €300 per month in Longford and Leitrim to €475 per month in the four Dublin local authority areas.
A couple with three children can pay up to a limit of €400 a month in Leitrim, or €900 in Fingal and €950 in the rest of Dublin.
The department said last week: “It should be stressed that there will be no instance of homelessness due to these measures.”
However, according to Fionnughla McLoughlin, assistant manager with the access housing unit of housing charity Threshold, the rates are now so low that eligible accommodation often does not meet legal minimum standards and some people lose their homes.
Regulations for rented housing introduced in 2009 state each unit must have its own sanitary facilities, along with modern standards for food storage, food preparation, refuse and laundry, ventilation, lighting and fire safety.
Ms McLoughlin said the access unit, which helps homeless people or those at risk of homelessness source accommodation, is taking three times as long as it did six months ago to find accommodation for people on rent supplement.
“We are just about sourcing single rooms in Dublin 3, 7, 1 and 2 under the new cap,” she said. “A lot of the time it’s not meeting minimum standards. You’re into shared toilets, shared bathrooms, lack of ventilation, damp, pull-out beds. There’s no point having these standards if the rent that can be paid won’t pay for them.”
Focus Ireland’s director of advocacy Mike Allen also said there was “no doubt” the “recent restrictions in rent supplement have contributed significantly to some people losing their homes.