Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (177)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

178 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she maintains that rent assistance is provided to 40% of households that rent, when the evidence from Census 2011 is that there are 475,000 households that rent in the State of which approximately 315,000 are shown as privately rented, which would indicate the 98,603 households the Minister says claim rent assistance comprise 31% of the rented market; and if it is the case that it is 31%, is the Minister concerned that cutting support by an average of 13% in one year to just 31% of households in the rented market will lead to hardship for that part of the rented market as a result of a sudden and significant reduction in purchasing power, compared with the majority of the market which competes for the same properties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35835/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are approximately 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

The most up to date market data available at the time of the December 2011 review indicated that rent supplement tenancies constituted 40% of the overall private residential rented market. The initial results on housing in Ireland were published by the Central Statistics Office in its summary report "This is Ireland, Highlights from Census 2011 Part 1". The Department is awaiting the publication of the Central Statistics Office report on housing in Ireland in August 2012 which will explore this issue in greater depth. The summary report indicates that while the percentage levels of rent supplement tenants may have reduced, it is clear that the Department continues to fund a significant proportion of the private sector rented market. It is therefore essential that State supports for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions and do not distort the market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students.

The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

25,000 rent supplement claims, which represents over 27% of total claims, have been awarded this year indicating that it is possible to secure accommodation within the revised limits.

The Department is continuing to monitor the impact of the rent limits.