FF can take ‘some credit’ for rent supplement increase, says Coveney

Proposals to give financial help to those at risk of homelessness welcomed by charities

Fianna Fáil can take “some credit” for increases in rent supplement and housing assistance payments, the Minister for Housing has said.

Simon Coveney denied Fine Gael had argued against such measures in the negotiations with Fianna Fail.

The Cabinet is expected to agree today to increase rent supplement and housing assistance payment with effect from next week.

Mr Coveney said: “That is politics. Fianna Fáil can take credit, they did input into this decision but I think both parties agreed this was the right decision.


“Fianna Fáil can take some credit but we are the Government who have to make sure the numbers add up in terms of the €55 million this will cost.”

The proposals to give extra financial assistance to people at risk of becoming homeless have been welcomed by charities.

Homeless and housing charity The Simon Communities of Ireland welcomed the move but said payment levels must be aligned with market rents.

“Rents have increased by 32.3 per cent since April 2012 while rent limits have remained unchanged since June 2013. Rent supplement spend actually reduced by 40 per cent between 2011 and 2015,” the charity said.

Spokeswoman Niamh Randall said the numbers of people becoming homeless had been growing at alarming levels.

There are currently 6,170 men, women and children in emergency homeless accommodation nationally - some 1,054 families with 2,177 children.

Trauma of homelessness

“Homelessness can and should be prevented; keeping people in their homes is critical to preventing the stress and trauma of homelessness for more people and families,” Ms Randall said.

A study by the Simon Communities suggested 95 per cent of properties available to rent were priced beyond the reach of people, depending on state rent supports for their housing, Ms Randall said.

She expressed concern that the high number of buy-to-let properties in distress had the potential to drive more people into homelessness.

Measures must be put in place to ensure these tenants are protected and that a further reduction in the number of properties in the private rented sector was avoided.

“At the moment, the system is very dependent on the private sector to provide people with homes,” Ms Randall said.

She said it was vital that local authorities and approved housing bodies be given the resources to start to provide social housing.

“A total of over 13,000 social housing units were delivered in 2015 through a range of programmes and schemes with only 28 houses actually being built, meanwhile there are at least 100,000 households on the social housing waiting list. People must have access to decent, affordable housing.”

The Peter McVerry Trust homeless charity said the new proposals would help keep more people in their homes and out of homelessness.

Chief executive Pat Doyle said the body's recent submission to the Oireachtas Housing and Homeless Committee recommended an increase in rent supplement of between 28 per cent and 35 per cent.

"The new rates will see an average increase of 29 per cent in Dublin, excluding Fingal, 21 per cent increases in Cork city and Galway city and an increase of 19 per cent in Kildare. Other areas will also see significant increases in the available rates."

Mr Doyle said Tuesday’s planned announcement would help reduce the number of people who would have otherwise ended up in homeless services, right across the State.

“It will hopefully lessen the acute pressures faced by agencies trying to tackle the problem and will create a breathing space to allow them to respond in other ways.”

He called on the Government to immediately move to bring forward legislation on indexed linked rents.

The Irish Property Owners’ Association said it had been requesting increases for a number of years but said the rent supplement was “not fit for purpose”.

“The rental caps have frequently put landlords and tenants in an untenable position. Rent supplement and housing assistance payment need to be at market rate. The unfair tax treatment of the sector has put severe pressure on landlords and increased the cost of providing rental accommodation at the same time as Rent Supplement was decreased.”

Separately, property consultants Savills Ireland said Wednesday's CSO figures were likely to see a further increase in Dublin house price inflation.

Director of research Dr John McCartney said that while it had gone largely unnoticed, the annual rate of house price growth had nearly doubled from 2.6 per cent last December to 4.6 per cent in April.

He said this pick-up would continue over the summer months.

“Firstly a strong base effect is about to kick-in. House price inflation slowed sharply last May and June. Therefore even modest increases this summer will see an uplift in the annual rate of inflation.

“Adding to this, strong demand for residential property has led to the return of genuine inflationary pressures in the market.”

“Giving people more money to compete for a fixed stock of rented properties will just drive rents up further. This will eventually flow into higher house prices as investors are attracted into the market.”