Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (302)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

302. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if, in view of the record breaking number of applicants currently on local authority housing waiting lists, the rent support for whom is the responsibility of her Department in lieu of local authority housing, the extent to which she is aware of the substantial variation in rents charged for privately rented housing accommodation throughout the country; the extent to which the currently applied ceiling in respect of which her Department is prepared to offer rent support being substantially short of what enables applicants to source accommodation; if she will urgently review the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11627/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Social)

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 overall 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 87,000 recipients of rent supplement for which the Government has provided over €403 million in 2013.

It is essential that State support for rents are kept under review and do not distort the wider rental market in a way that could increase rent prices for others, such as low paid workers and students. Approximately 48,700 rent supplement claims were awarded during 2012, showing that accommodation can be secured within the current limits. Department officials dealing with rent supplement tenants continue to ensure that their accommodation needs are met. The Department will continue to monitor rent levels throughout the country. The next review of rent limits will be undertaken before June 2013 and any changes to the existing limits will be considered as part of this review.

The Government has two initiatives to deal with long term reliance on rent supplement, the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) which has been in operation since 2005 and the new Housing Assistance Payment which will be piloted later this year. These initiatives will reduce the numbers of persons who are in receipt of long term rent supplement and will return the rent supplement scheme to its original purpose, that of a short term income support for those who have become temporarily unemployed. Under the RAS, at the end of January 2013, local authorities have transferred approximately 43,500 households from rent supplement to local authority sponsored housing solutions.