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. 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 currently approximately 76,000 customers in receipt of rent supplement. To qualify for rent supplement a claimant must:
- have been residing in private rented accommodation (where at the commencement of the tenancy the person could have reasonably afforded the rent and has experienced a substantial change in his or her circumstances where they are now unable to pay the rent) or accommodation for homeless persons or in an institution (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for rent supplement,
- have been assessed by a housing authority pursuant to section 9 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended by section 75 of the Health Act 2004) as having a housing need.
It is the Department’s policy that an assessment of eligibility for social housing support should be carried out by the relevant local housing authority in the area where a claim to rent supplement is made and the person intends to reside. This ensures that the relevant local authorities are made aware of and can take responsibility for the long-term housing needs of rent supplement tenants living within their administrative area. This reflects both the responsibility of local authorities in providing long-term housing supports and the temporary income support nature of rent supplement. Without this measure rent supplement recipients would be unknown to their respective local authority, where they currently reside, with the potential that they may lose out on an offer for social housing including support under the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) which is currently being piloted in the Limerick area.
Department officials have considerable experience in dealing with customers of the rent supplement scheme and continue to make every effort to ensure that their accommodation needs are met.