Rent Supplement Scheme is Failing Most Vulnerable

Press Releases

The Threshold report ‘Seeking a Home on Rent Supplement: Experience in Cork City in 2004’ will be launched on Friday 29th July at 11.00am in the Whitechurch Suite, Imperial Hotel, South Mall, Cork.

The rent supplement scheme is failing a significant minority of vulnerable households, say Threshold, who today [29th July] launch a research report that documents the experience of people living on rent supplement in Cork city. The report ‘Seeking a Home on Rent Supplement’ shows that many vulnerable people on rent supplement are living in unacceptable conditions and are being forced to pay ‘top-up’ payments to secure a home. The research was based on interviews with 70 people on rent supplement conducted in Cork city in 2004.

The main findings of the report are:

People on rent supplement are effectively excluded from over two-thirds (70%) of the rental market, either because prices are too high or landlords won’t accept people on rent supplement. This makes it hard for people to find accommodation.
The survey found that 50% of vulnerable people are forced to live in accommodation that does not meet the very basic statutory minimum standards: 7% were living in windowless rooms, 11% did not have access to a sink with hot and cold running water and over a quarter (26%) had problems with mould on walls or ceilings. Such conditions are unhealthy and unlikely to be tolerable for any length of time. This puts people at high risk of homelessness and leads to physical and mental ill health.
Over a fifth (21%) of people on rent supplement are forced to make ‘top-up’ payments in addition to their required contribution, so that they are left with the less than the basic minimum welfare payment to live on. Single people are at the highest risk of being trapped, paying anything from 7% to 47% above the rent supplement payment. The struggle to make ends meet means that many are at risk of becoming homeless.

To address these problems, Threshold is calling on Cork City Council to step up inspections of rented properties to ensure that they meet basic standards and to publicly name rogue landlords. Another recommendation being put forward is that access to good quality, sustainable housing be put in place to assist the most vulnerable, similar to the very successful Access Housing Unit model operated by Threshold in Dublin.

Margaret O’Neill, Co-ordinator of Threshold’s Southern Region Advice Centre, said:
“Landlords should not be able to profit by renting substandard properties to vulnerable people. The minimum standards regulations were introduced in 1993 to ensure a basic standard for all rented accommodation. It is clear, 12 years on, that some properties in our city do not meet even this basic standard. Many individuals dependent on rent supplement have little if any housing options and are often forced to live in substandard properties.

We are calling on Cork City Council to draw up an effective programme to enforce minimum standards regulations and to carry out regular inspections on all properties in the city. Property owners whose properties fail to meet basic standards should also be ‘named and shamed’. By doing this, Cork City Council will be protecting the most vulnerable people in our city from rogue landlords and from a life of misery.”

Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, stated:
“It is clear from this survey that a significant number of vulnerable people, particularly one person households, are forced to pay top-ups from their own scarce resources to secure housing. We must realise that this means that they often have to do without basic essentials in order to ensure that payments are made. The government must review rent caps in the Southern Region to ensure people are not forced into abject poverty to secure a home.”


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