Gilmore warns of exorbitant claims as cap to be placed on rent allowances


THE TÁNAISTE has warned private landlords that the Government will not pay them exorbitant rent allowances.

Eamon Gilmore said the Government did not intend abolishing the rent allowance system, but it did intend to join it up with the housing system.

“However, let us be clear about this,” he added. “We are not going to pay in rent allowance any amount a landlord thinks he can extract from the State.”

Mr Gilmore said some landlords appeared to think they could jack up the rent to any amount they wanted and that the State, through the rent allowance system, would pay it. That was why the Government was putting a cap on the amount that could be paid through rent allowance.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked Mr Gilmore if he was aware that half of the €500 million paid to private landlords was spent on social housing, which would come under the control of local authorities.

“The Government’s decision to lower the rent caps and force individual tenants, under the threat of being made homeless, into often unwinnable negotiations with landlords, is causing untold misery and upheaval for families throughout the country,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said the homelessness budget was being maintained. “A considerable sum of money is being paid out through the rent allowance system to support tenants in the payment of rent.

“The purpose of placing a cap on the amount of rent to which the allowance can be applied is precisely to ensure that the State will not be subsidising landlords but that instead it will provide assistance to tenants to enable them to pay their rent.”

Mr Gilmore said another purpose of the cap was to ensure landlords would not exploit the system and hike up rents in anticipation that the State would cover people’s rent in any event.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said a small, representative group of the families on the housing waiting list was watching from the public gallery.

“Is it not an obscenity that there are 96,000 people on housing lists and waiting up to 10 years to be housed when the census figures show there are 230,000 empty dwellings in the State?”

Mr Boyd Barrett said it was a disgrace that €500 million was being spent on payments to private landlords when the same amount could be saved if council housing was provided.

Mr Gilmore said the Government was working with Nama to have houses transferred to the public system so they would be available for people who needed them.

“If residential property is not being used and is tied up in Nama, it makes sense to use these dwellings to make homes available for people who need them,” he added.