Burton rules out increase in rent supplement rates

Focus says decision will condemn more families to homelessness as Christmas approaches

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: “I have no plans to increase a person’s minimum contribution under the rent supplement scheme, that is that a person is required to pay towards their accommodation from their own resources.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: “I have no plans to increase a person’s minimum contribution under the rent supplement scheme, that is that a person is required to pay towards their accommodation from their own resources.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Rent supplement rates will not be increased, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has indicated. A review of rent supplement rates is under way and is due be published early next year. However, the Minister said she has “no plans” to increase the rates.

The development, say agencies working in the sector, will “condemn an increasing number of households to homelessness”.

In a written answer to Gerry Adams TD, dated October 16th, Ms Burton said: “I can confirm that I have no plans to increase a person’s minimum contribution under the rent supplement scheme, that is that a person is required to pay towards their accommodation from their own resources.”

There are currently 73,500 households in receipt of rent supplement.

To qualify, a household must be dependent on social welfare and accommodated in the private rented sector. A single person must pay a least €30 per month from their own resources towards their rent and a couple must contribute at least €40. Minimum contributions would only increase if maximum rates were raised.

Ms Burton said increasing rent limits would “only serve to place a higher pressure on rental prices nationally, exacerbating what already is a very difficult situation for all persons renting.

“I am concerned that raising rent limits may not be the solution for all persons renting,” she said. “I am concerned raising rent limits may not be the solution as it is likely to add to further rental inflation and impact, not alone on rent supplement recipients, but also on many lower income workers and their families and students. I plan to keep the matter under close review.”

Groups such as Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities and the Fr Peter McVerry Trust have called for an increase in rent caps over the past year as low-income households are increasingly squeezed out of the private rented market. The increasing numbers of homeless families in particular is putting unprecedented pressure on homeless services and budgets, particularly in Dublin.

Focus Ireland said yesterday the decision not to increase rent supplement caps would “condemn more families to homelessness in the coming weeks and months up to Christmas”, while Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities said, while addressing the housing supply issue was clearly critical, “the crisis is now and solutions, including increasing the rent caps, are needed now”.

A spokeswoman for the Department said last night: “The matter is still under review at present with the findings of the review to inform adjustments to the maximum rent limits. The prevailing issue is the critical low levels of supply. It is clear that rent limits are not a solution to the current supply problem.

“There is the real risk that increasing rent limits at this time will in all likelihood add to further rental inflation and affect, not alone rent-supplement recipients, but also many lower income working families and students alike.”