I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 5 together.
There are approximately 78,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided more than €344 million in 2014. While the Deputy may find it difficult to accept, there are clearly many tens of thousands of people in receipt of rent supplement. Following an extensive review of the private rental market, revised maximum rent limits were introduced from Monday, 17 June 2013 until 31 December 2014. The purpose of the review is to ensure the availability of accommodation for rent supplement tenancies, not to provide access to all housing in all areas - a point the Deputy raised on previous occasions - while ensuring maximum value for money is achieved. Despite the overall pressures on the social protection budget, there have been increases in the rent allowed in Dublin, Galway, north County Kildare and Bray.
I am aware of the difficulties facing people in sourcing accommodation and the latest Daft.ie rental report indicates that the number of advertised rental units in Dublin had declined from 6,700 in 2009 to fewer than 1,500 at the end of 2013. The report also states rent levels are static in areas outside Dublin, including Cork, Galway and Limerick cities. All prospective tenants, including those seeking to access rent supplement, are finding it increasingly difficult to secure appropriate accommodation owing to the reduced availability of rental properties, particularly in Dublin. Increasing the maximum rent limits for rent supplement will not resolve this difficulty owing to the reduced level of supply and would result in further increases in rental costs for all persons renting, including those who are working and students.
That approximately 78,000 people are in receipt of rent supplement, of whom almost 30,000 are in the Dublin area, shows a significant number of landlords are accommodating applicants under the scheme. The Department continues to monitor trends in the private rental market to determine the impact on rent supplement recipients. Departmental officials administering the rent supplement scheme have considerable experience in dealing with customers under the scheme and will continue to make every effort to ensure their accommodation needs are met and that the residence is reasonably suited to their residential and other needs.
Under the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme, responsibility for recipients of rent supplement with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection to local authorities. Officials in the Department are working closely with those in the lead Department, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, to pilot the HAP scheme in the Limerick local authority by the end of March, with further roll-out to selected local authorities later in the year.