Peter McVerry says €85m more must be spent on rent supplement

Legislation to prevent discrimination of rent supplement tenants a ‘red herring’

Fr Peter McVerry: “The whole point why landlords won’t give rented accommodation to people on the rent allowance is because the rent allowance is too low.” Photograph: Matt Kavanagh.

Fr Peter McVerry: “The whole point why landlords won’t give rented accommodation to people on the rent allowance is because the rent allowance is too low.” Photograph: Matt Kavanagh.

 

The Government needs to spend €85 million to increase rent supplement to economically viable levels, homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.

The Department of Social Protection’s claim that raising rent allowance rates could worsen rental inflation was spurious and disingenuous, he said.

“I don’t buy that, because so few landlords are taking rent allowance. In the Dublin area less than 1 per cent of landlords are accepting rent allowance, so I don’t see how putting up rent allowance is going to influence the private rented market.”

The Government last week announced it would not be raising ceilings on rent supplement payments, on foot of the department’s review. The reason for the decision, Fr McVerry said, was that to allow rent supplement tenants to compete in the private market would take a 17 per cent increase in the payment, which would cost €85 million.

State balance sheet

“The real reason is that they don’t want to pay out the €85 million because it will go on to the Government’s balance sheet. In order to bring the economy in under budget homeless people are going to be collateral damage.”

The Government’s promise to introduce legislation to prevent landlords discriminating against people on rent supplement was a “red herring” and “a total waste of time”, he said.

“It would be impossible to prove in a court and it misses the whole point. The whole point why landlords won’t give rented accommodation to people on the rent allowance is because the rent allowance is too low.”

The Government’s homeless strategy and its social housing strategy relied on housing people in the private rented sector, he said: “The only act in town for the next two to three years is going to to be the private rented sector. The only solution to homelessness over the next two to three years is going to be in the private rented sector.

“The refusal to increase the rent allowance means that that sector is shut off to homeless people and to others who are dependent on the rent supplement.”

The decision “made a nonsense of both strategies”, he said. “This is the nail in the coffin of the Government’s homeless strategy and the Government’s social housing strategy.”

However, he said he did not believe the Government would retain the current rent supplement limits and would increase them within the next year.

R

epossessions “With house repossessions beginning to gain momentum there are potentially thousands of families who could become homeless between now and the next election. No Government could sustain that, so I do predict they will increase the rent allowance between now and the next election.”

Fr McVerry was speaking at a the Right2Housing conference in Dublin organised by People Before Profit.

Party TD Richard Boyd Barrett said a campaign along the lines of the Right2Water campaign was needed to “put thousands of people on the streets to demand housing, rent controls and an end to evictions”.