Written Answers. - County Council House Rents.

245.

asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware that rents on County Council (S.I.) houses are being increased by as much as 400 per cent; and if he will explain the reason for this enormous increase.

I am not so aware. Rents of all local authority houses included in the differential rent scheme are generally based on household income and the family circumstances of tenants.

Arising out of the annual revision of differential rents for local authority dwellings, an amended scheme was introduced to take effect from 1 May 1980. Under previous schemes certain anomalies existed in so far as the assessment for rent purposes of the income of social welfare recipients was concerned. Some incomes from social welfare payments were assessed at 50 per cent while others were assessed at 100 per cent. To obviate these anomalies all social welfare payments are now being assessed at the full rate.

To offset the effects of any rent increases which this procedure might entail, and to assist those in the lower income groups, particularly social welfare pensioners and lower paid workers, substantial increases were made in the amounts of assessable incomes to which the various rent fractions apply and also in the graded scale of allowances for principal earners while at the same time the rent fraction at the lowest band of the graded scale was reduced from one-twelfth to one-twentieth.

In the case of an employed tenant the rent is calculated on basic income, which is, in general, the normal weekly rate of remuneration exclusive of overtime, shift-allowances and bonus payments. In the case of all tenants, children's allowances, supplementary welfare allowances, redundancy payments, disabled persons allowances, lump sum compensation payments and so forth are disregarded as income for the purpose of the calculation of rents.

Where a fixed rent applies to a house, the rent was increased by 30p per week with effect from the commencement of the revised scheme. Tenants of fixed rent dwellings have their option of going on to differential rent. This should ensure that rent increases will not entail hardship in any case.

I am satisfied that the scheme as revised is fair and equitable to both local authorities and tenants and is designed to ensure that tenants are not required to pay a rent that they cannot reasonably afford. The scheme is reviewed annually and any amendments of the terms of the scheme, considered necessary, are made.

It should be noted that in cases of genuine hardship it is open to local authorities to accept from a tenant for a specified period a lesser sum for rent than that required under the scheme.

246.

asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware that a person (details supplied) in County Sligo, who has to support a wife and two children on a contributory pension, had his rent increased from £5 to £22.50 per month; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The monthly rent of the tenant in question as determined by the local authority was £5.42 under the 1979 national rents scheme. The correct monthly rent payable from 1 May 1980, calculated in accordance with the terms of the 1980 national rents scheme, is £10.70 and is based on income from retirement pension payable at February 1980.

I understand from Sligo County Council that the rent from 1 May 1980, as initially calculated, amounted to £22.32 per month. This rent was incorrect due to a misunderstanding which arose in respect of the income from retirement pension payable at February last. This matter has now been clarified and the rent reduced to £10.70 per month which will apply retrospectively to 1 May 1980.