Rent supplement ceiling ‘disaster’ for homeless

Homeless campaigner says private sector now ‘shut off’ to supplement dependants

The Government’s decision not to raise rent supplement payments, is a “disaster” that will “lock people into homelessness,” Fr Peter McVerry has warned.

The homeless campaigner was reacting to a Department of Social Protection review, published last Friday, which said raising the ceilings on the level of rent to which the subsidy applies could add further to rental inflation.

The Government homeless strategy and its social housing strategy both relied on housing people in the private rented sector, but the decision to retain the current rent supplement caps effectively priced those dependent on the payment out of the private 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 Government’s assertion that increasing the supplement caps would push up rents was nonsense he said.

“The Government are saying if we increase the rent allowance landlords will put up the rent even further, I don’t buy that because so few landlords are taking rent allowance.”

In the Dublin area less than one per cent of landlords were now accepting rent allowance tenants he said.

“ So I don’t see how putting up rent allowance is going to influence the private rented market.”

There were only three exits out of homelessness, he said: social housing, of which there was so little available it was effectively out of reach; housing charities, which were very limited in what they could offer ; and the private rented sector, which the Government was now blocking off.

“The announcement about the rent allowance is a disaster it’s going to lock people into homelessness and it’s going to lock people into hopelessness.”

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".

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times