Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (89, 92, 96, 98, 99, 114)

Clare Daly

Question:

89. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the arrangements in place to enable persons who are in danger of homelessness to access increased levels of rent supplement. [24228/14]

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Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

92. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the fact that persons on rent allowance are finding it very difficult to find accommodation to suit the caps on rent allowance and where a family might be expected to move from their local community, the reason she will not consider implementing caps on the amount the landlord is allowed to charge for the rental property; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24125/14]

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Joan Collins

Question:

96. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to deal with the increases in rent prices in urban areas as they relate to persons on rent allowance. [24199/14]

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Mick Wallace

Question:

98. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the immediate revision of the current rent limits under the rent supplement scheme in order to alleviate the pressure on many families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24230/14]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

99. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 425 of 27 May 2014, the timeframe by which she expects its new housing interagency intervention system to be fully operational; the number of rent supplement recipients that it is anticipated will be assisted via the new system; if that assistance will include higher rent supplement payments; the number of persons who have applied for a supplement under the existing discretionary powers of Department officials; and the number who have been awarded such a supplement. [24118/14]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

114. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if community welfare officers have discretion to raise the rent caps for those searching for accommodation in order to allow them to find housing in the area in which they are based; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24232/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 92, 96, 98, 99 and 114 together.

The Government has provided over €344 million for the rent supplement scheme in 2014, the purpose of which is to provide short-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources. There are currently approximately 76,000 rent supplement recipients, of which over 50,000 have been in payment for more than 18 months. A review of the maximum rent limits has commenced within the Department and will be considered as part of the budgetary process. The most recent review was completed in June 2013 with revised rent limits introduced on 17 June 2013. Despite pressures on the social protection budget, the last review saw rent limits increase in line with market rents in some areas, including Dublin and Galway, with Dublin limits increasing by a weighted average of 9%.

All prospective tenants, including those seeking to access rent supplement, particularly in urban areas, are now finding it increasingly difficult to secure appropriate accommodation due to the reduced availability of rental properties. Policy in relation to implementing rent controls on the amounts landlords can charge is a matter for my colleague in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

I can assure Deputies that Department officials have considerable experience in dealing with customers of the scheme and will continue to make every effort to ensure that their accommodation needs are met. Staff in the Department’s Community Welfare Service have discretionary powers to award a supplement for rental purposes in exceptional cases where it appears that the circumstances of the case so warrant, for example, when dealing with applicants who are homeless or who are at risk of losing their tenancy. Such cases are examined on a case by case basis having regard to the situation presented. Statistics are not maintained on the number of applications seeking payments over the maximum limits or their outcome.

In view of the current supply difficulties, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive in conjunction with Dublin local authorities and voluntary organisations have agreed with the Department a protocol so that families at risk of losing existing private rented accommodation can have more timely and appropriate interventions made on their behalf. Cases will be assessed on an individual basis having regard to the individual circumstances and families requiring additional support will receive the necessary assistance from the Department, including financial support as necessary. The necessary operational arrangements are currently being put in place and it is expected that the initiative will be launched on 16 June 2014. The number of families that will require assistance under this arrangement is not known at present but will be monitored following its rollout.

Officials in the Department are continuing to engage with those in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in progressing the transfer of customers with long term housing needs from this Department to the local authorities under the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).