Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (35, 36, 37, 38, 39)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

38 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make provisions for rent supplement to be paid directly to landlords. [34952/12]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

46 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reversing the new rent allowance caps brought in last January in view of the hardship these caps are causing to some of the most vulnerable families and the ineffectiveness of this strategy in reducing rents; if she will consider, instead, introducing rent controls; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34956/12]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

47 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of additional persons to whom the new lower rent supplement ceiling was applied in the last month; the number who have been forced to move as a consequence of the new ceiling to date in 2012; her views on the fact that it may be too late for parents who are forced to leave their locality to enrol their children in new schools; and if she will seek to make savings on rent supplement by negotiating directly with landlord representatives instead of placing exclusive responsibility for achieving her Departments savings on individual vulnerable tenants. [34936/12]

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Kevin Humphreys

Question:

49 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to allow for more flexibility in the setting of upper rent limits on the rent supplement scheme to take into account the large variation in the cost of renting particularly in urban areas such as Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that recent reforms are creating difficulties for participants in securing accommodation in the area where they currently reside; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34329/12]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has examined the possibility of varying the maximum rent which her Department is prepared to support in respect of those who are forced to avail of private rented accommodation due to the dearth of suitable local authority housing with particular reference to the need to in some way reflect local market variations; if she will engage with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to the acquisition of a precise number of houses from the private sector on an annual basis thereby obviating the need for on-going long term rent support for those on the local authority housing lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34935/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 46, 47, 49 and 60 together.

There are currently approximately 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement, for which the Government has provided €436 million for 2012. New maximum rent limits were introduced from 1 January 2012 based on a review of the most up-to-date market data available. As part of the review, all major urban population centres (including Dublin) were analysed to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and taxpayers was achieved whilst ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

The revised limits are applicable to new rent supplement tenancies from January 2012 and existing tenancies on review. Approximately 25,000 rent supplement claims have been awarded in 2012, of which 3,700 were awarded within the last month, indicating that accommodation can be secured within the new limits. Information on the numbers who have secured alternative accommodation is not available.

Officials administering the scheme advise that customers are securing alternative accommodation within their locality. Any customers who may have specific issues in relation to relocating should discuss these issues with Department officials who are continuing to provide support and advice to customers in addressing their accommodation and other needs. There will be no incidence of homelessness due to these changes.

While rent supplement is not generally paid where the rent charged for the accommodation is above the relevant maximum limit, Departmental officials have flexibility around making payments above these limits where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances which may include a person with a disability in specially-adapted accommodation.

Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of the tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs. The Department does not intend negotiating directly with landlords to reduce rents on behalf of a tenant. Nor does it intend introducing rent controls for landlords.

Policy in relation to the acquisition of properties for social housing is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Officials in my Department are continuing to monitor the impact of the revised limits; I have no plans to revise the rent limits at this time.