Rent supplement recipient numbers fall by 23%
Minister points to people returning to work while organisations dealing with homelessness highlight the many households who have lost their private rented accommodation
Photograph: Eric Luke
The number of people on rent supplement has fallen by almost a quarter since 2010, and the amount of money spent on it has decreased by almost 30 per cent in the same period, new figures show.
Data from the Department of Social Protection shows there were 97,260 households in receipt of rent supplement in 2010. This fell to 96,803 in 2011, to 87,684 in 2012 and to 79,788 last year. At the end of last month there were 74,080 in receipt of the allowance – a 23 per cent drop since 2010.
The amount being spent on the scheme has fallen too from €516.5 million in 2010, to €502 million in 2011, €422.5 million in 2012, and €373 million last year. So far this year the scheme has cost the department €229 million. The entire projected spend on rent supplement for 2014 is €344 million.
Rent supplement is paid to households in private-rented accommodation who are dependent on social welfare.
The amount paid out varies across the State. In Dublin city, the maximum rent supplement payable to a couple with no children is €690 while a couple with three children, or one parent with three children, could get €960.
When asked last weekend about the falling numbers on rent supplement, Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the explanation was people returning to work.
However, public representatives and organisations working with homeless households say the decline is also explained by numbers losing their rent supplement because they have lost their private rented accommodation and become homeless.
In Dublin, where the number of households receiving the supplement has fallen from 33,818 in 2010 to 27,601 at the end of last month – a drop of 19 per cent – councillors say there is a direct correlation between the decrease and increasing numbers of homeless households.
Cllr Críona Ní Dhalaigh of Sinn Féin, chair of Dublin City Council’s housing strategic policy committee, says her clinics are inundated with households who have lost their private rented accommodation and cannot source alternative housing, due to spiralling rents in the city.
“These families are presenting to homeless services or have moved in with family and are living in overcrowded conditions. This is causing huge stress to families and children in particular. They have lost their rent allowance not because they have got work but because they have lost their homes.”
Independent councillor Ruairí McGinley said rent allowance had been “effectively discontinued for new applicants in Dublin” as “rent supplement levels are so far off market rate”.
He said it should be “little surprise” that the inadequacy of rent supplement levels was “resulting in homelessness on a scale not seen in modern times . . . I suggest that rent supplement levels in Dublin are increased immediately as it is clear that increases in social housing output are too slow to cope with the current situation.”
Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said the decline in numbers on rent supplement was partially due to people returning to employment but a proportion of the drop was “definitely down to people losing their private rented accommodation”.