Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Questions (547)

Seán Sherlock


547. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to an issue of rent discrepancy on the Laois and Carlow border (details supplied). [38438/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The housing to which the Deputy refers is leased by an Approved Housing Body (AHB). Payment and Availability Agreements in respect of each dwelling have been signed between the AHB and the particular local authority making the tenant allocation in respect of that dwelling. There are two local authorities involved in the referenced development.

It is a term of the agreement between the AHB and the local authorities involved that the AHB agrees to charge, collect and retain from the occupants of the dwellings the rent calculated in accordance with the relevant local authority’s Differential Rent Scheme. The two local authorities involved have different differential rent schemes and the calculation of rent is therefore different.

Local authorities have been able to make their own rent schemes since 1986 and different approaches have been taken to rent charging and setting across the country. There are currently 36 differential rents schemes in operation nationwide. This may result in a situation where housing authority tenants living quite close to each other, and having similar incomes, are paying different rents because they reside in different administrative areas. This is a feature of the local government system and of the fact that rent setting is currently a matter for each housing authority.

While the case of one development straddling a county border may be unusual, it is not, in principle, different from other situations where tenants on the same income pay different rents.

Considerable work has been carried out by my Department in developing a draft national differential rents framework for the purposes of section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. Such a framework has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents, including a set of standardised income disregards, whilst retaining the general principle of rents relating to household income.

This work is now being examined further in the light of the broader commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, to review the disparate systems of differential rent for social housing in place across local authorities. The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes. I expect that the review will be completed in the near future.