I will try to answer as many questions as I can directly. This question follows on from Deputy Thomas P. Broughan's question.
The Department is undertaking a review of rent limits. An analysis shows that the impact of increasing limits will yield only a very marginal increase in available supply for rent supplement recipients, with little or no new housing available to new recipients. I will continue to keep this matter under review. I am acutely aware of the difficulties people are experiencing in maintaining affordable rented accommodation in areas of high demand in the current market, including those in receipt of rent supplement. However, raising rent limits may not be the solution to the problem, as it is likely to add to further rental inflation and could impact not only on rent supplement recipients but also many lower income workers and students.
I assure the Deputy that officers administering rent supplement throughout the country have considerable experience and make every effort to ensure accommodation needs are met, including through the use of their discretionary statutory powers, as necessary. The Department has sent a letter reminding staff of the discretionary powers available. In the light of a particular concentration of the homelessness problem in the Dublin area, the Department has agreed a tenancy sustainment protocol with the Dublin local authorities and voluntary organisations to support families on rent supplement who are at risk of losing their accommodation. Since the launch of the protocol in 2014, over 160 families have had their rent supplement claims revised by the Department which is examining the need for such protocols in other areas.
I agree with the Deputy that increasing housing supply is the real answer. We must focus on building social housing across the country, particularly where there are key demands. I know that the Deputy's constituency is probably suffering the same problems faced by my constituency in Dublin. That is why, as I outlined to Deputy Thomas P. Broughan, money has been made available in the budget - some €2.2 billion is being put in place in the next three years. Representing an inner city community, I am acutely aware of the demand for social housing and driving this home is top of my priorities since I recently became a Minister of State. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Increasing housing supply and the reactivation of construction activity is a critical issue for the Government and key to restoring stability to the rental market. In this context, it should be noted that the Government has recently launched the Construction Strategy 2020.
As part of budget 2015, the Government also announced significant capital investment of over €2.2 billion for social housing in the next three years. In 2015 over €800 million will be invested in a range of housing programmes, representing the first major investment in housing since 2009. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is also due to publish a social housing strategy shortly. This will propose a range of approaches and reforms that are innovative and challenging and will provide a basis for an improved and sustainable approach to the provision of social housing supports in Ireland.