Threshold, the national housing charity, has strongly criticised the review on rent supplement limits, which was published by the Department of Social Protection today (27.03.15). According to Threshold, the review fails to offer any hope for rent supplement tenants in the private rented sector who are currently struggling to meet market rents.
“We are extremely disappointed that this report fails to recognise the desperate plight of rent supplement tenants and those seeking accommodation under the rent supplement scheme,” said Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of Threshold. “The fact that it recommends leaving rent supplement limits as they are – in the face of rapidly rising rents, severe housing shortages and growing levels of homelessness – is unacceptable.
“Threshold helps hundreds of people each week with their housing needs, and we know from them first-hand that current rent supplement limits are not high enough to keep pace with rising market rents. As a result, families are losing their homes and, in many cases, are facing the terrifying prospect of homelessness.
“The rent supplement scheme as it stands is not fit for purpose and fails to meet the needs of low-income tenants. This is evidenced by the rising tide of homelessness in urban centres, the widespread practice of illegal top-up payments, and the current public outcry over the difficulties in the private rented market.”
The rent supplement review report was published by the Department of Social Protection, following consultation with stakeholders in the housing sector. Similar reviews are, typically, published every 18 months.
Bob Jordan said it was “unusual” for the report to recommend no change to rent supplement limits.
“Rent supplement limits are normally reviewed every 18 months, and this usually leads to adjusting the limits upwards or downwards in response to market conditions,” he said. “I cannot recall any previous review that recommended no change, and I find it hard to comprehend why the status quo is being recommended now – in the midst of a housing crisis.
“The main recommendation made to the review process by organisations, including Threshold, was that rent supplement limits should be increased. This recommendation has been completely ignored.”
Senator Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said rent supplement limits must be revised to bring them into line with market rents or real alternative solutions must be offered for those with a housing need.
“The housing market is governed by the laws of supply and demand,” she said. “If the Government wants to rely on the private market to provide housing under the rent supplement scheme, then it must pay the going rate or stand by as people become homeless.
“By permitting increased rent supplement payments on a case-by-case basis – as advocated in this review report – the Department of Social Protection is actually acknowledging that rent supplement limits are insufficient. It is not fair that families should be pushed to the brink of homelessness before the Department of Social Protection responds to their needs.
“If the Department’s policy is not to increase rent supplement limits when rents are skyrocketing, then when does it consider it right to do so? If people cannot access the private rented market, then the Government must propose real alternative solutions.”