I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 130, 145 and 150 together.
There are currently approximately 89,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided €436 million for the scheme in 2012.
Revised maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. These limits were set after an analysis of the most up to date market data available. It is essential that rents are allowed to stabilise from a natural balance of supply and demand, rather than as a result of a rent control funded by the taxpayer.
The Equal Status Acts 2000-2011 prohibit discrimination in the provision of services that are generally available to the public whether provided by the state or the private sector. Refusal by landlords to accept rent supplement tenants does not, however, fall within the area of discrimination as provided for under the equality legislation.
The fact that approximately 89,000 people are currently in receipt of rent supplement of which 42,000 have been awarded during 2012 shows that a significant number of landlords are accommodating applicants of the scheme and that rent supplement recipients are able to access accommodation within the current limits, which is in operation since 2004, and the new Housing Policy Initiative. In March 2012, the Government approved in principle to transfer responsibility for the provision of rental assistance to persons with a long term housing need from the Department of Social Protection, currently provided through rent supplement, to housing authorities using a new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
A multi-agency steering group chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has been established to develop proposals to give effect to this transfer. It is planned that pilot testing of HAP arrangements will commence during the second half of 2013 with general roll out and commencement of transfers from January 2014.
The Department will continue to monitor the impact of the rent limits throughout the country but at this stage I have no plans to alter the current approach, in terms of introducing legislation to impose rent controls on residential properties or to bring forward the rent limit review. The Government will consider the appropriate level of expenditure on rent supplement in 2013 in the context of the forthcoming Budget.